How to increase your fan engagement during March Madness - 7 March 2016

March Madness is finally here. This is a time of year like no other. It whips Americans into a frenzy more than any other sporting event, including the Super Bowl. On ESPN alone, more than 70 million brackets are submitted, and March Madness costs employers $1.9 billion in lost productivity.


During these three weeks, fandom is at its peak. You now have an expanded universe of casual fans watching, bantering, posting, cheering and purchasing.

This month has become a critical time where teams and schools can capitalize on the spotlight of the NCAA tournament to drive increased fan engagement. Knowing who your fans are is a challenge but also presents a tremendous opportunity. The elevated participation provides more ways than ever to learn about your fans. They’re interacting and they’re receptive.

As a result, your preparation and execution must be different than all of your other events during the year. You’re migrating from promoting single events and focusing on fans in-venue, to now, engaging a larger fan base over potentially a longer period of time. And they’re following your team all over the country.

When you have a single solution to view and leverage your data, you have the agility to adapt your strategy in real-time and long after the final buzzer. We’ve compiled some tips to help you increase fan engagement, while giving you more chances to capture fan behaviors and preferences.

Start early
Don’t wait until the first tip-off to start executing your strategy. In 2014, Selection Sunday was the most popular day for sports viewing when the outcome is undeterminable. Research shows that attention to the tournament is starting earlier, giving you a bigger window to start identifying and interacting with your eager fans.

Prepare for the long haul
Unlike other sporting events where you might have the highest attention span during a three-hour window, March Madness is a marathon of fan engagement where demand is spread out over days, weeks, and locations. Use these circumstances to capture the most information you can about fans engaging with you in different ways, and possibly for different reasons. Ensure your strategy includes the ability to capture their habits and behaviors in real-time.

Be ready for the magic moment
One of the best ways to convert a casual fan into a loyal one is to connect with them during an emotional moment. Take advantage of the opportunity to leave an impression whether it’s around a huge upset, a big play, a tough loss or a compelling storyline.

Did you know that pizza purchases spike with fans after their team loses? Maybe a fan will remember the time your sponsor gave them the perfect offer at the perfect time.

What do you want to be remembered for?

Social media as a conversion tool
In 2015, there were 350 million March Madness impressions on Facebook and Twitter, up 45% from 2014. The reality is not all of your followers are current customers. How do you make that conversion happen? Research demonstrates that contests and giveaways perform really well across the board. Social media is an effective means for deploying these tactics to aggregate tangible information and metrics associated with your followers. You can optimize these fan profiles instantly for future sales and marketing campaigns.

Interactive app content
Mobile consumption increased 20 percent in 2015 compared to 2014, and more than half of all March Madness Google searches were on mobile in 2015. This is a perfect time to boost usage of your app. It should serve as one of your primary tools to make your fans feel closer to the action, while providing your school with the ability to learn more about them based on those interactions.

Here are some best practices we’ve learned from our own organization, as well as FanThreeSixty clients:

  • Send exclusive offers and content only through your app, utilizing other channels to promote and drive traffic.
  • Leverage your data to deliver hyper-targeted content based on individual fan behaviors and preferences.
  • Work with your sponsors to deliver personalized discounts, access, or giveaways.
  • Educate fans on the benefits of using your app, including how it can enhance their experience while watching the games outside of the venues.
  • Utilize location data to help your fans know when and where local events associated with the tournament are happening.
  • Your app should deliver you much more than just a universe of downloads. With the right mobile strategy, your users’ data will enrich existing profiles within your database, adding additional information on their preferences and behaviors.

Engagement shouldn’t end when the tournament does
You’ve likely just had your largest audience of the season. Use the data you’ve captured to keep these casual fans engaged. Be careful not to assume the fans who followed your team during the tournament will actively engage with your school next season. Take this time to learn as much as you can about them and create an action plan for how you’re going to keep them interested in the future.

Your universe is no longer limited to just the fans coming to your venue. FanThreeSixty helps sports teams around the world aggregate invaluable fan data from various sources into a centralized location, providing new opportunities to generate increased loyalty and incremental revenues. We can do the same for you.

Published on  on 7 March 2016