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BizReport : Blogs & Content : March 19, 2012

March Madness can teach brands how to engage

The NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament - aka March Madness - is in full swing, complete with a list of underdog victories during the first round. But there is more to learn from the tournament than basketball. Brands should take note of ways March Madness advertisers are utilizing the content of the games forward - to other upcoming online and offline events.

by Kristina Knight

Yahoo is once more breaking ground in the area of content, utilizing celebrities, exclusive ad agreements and conversation to engage consumers.

Kristina: March Madness has always had a 'niche' following. How has that changed in the last five years?

Patrick Albano, Yahoo Vice President of Sales for Social, Mobile and Product Innovation: Social and emerging technologies have changed the way fans follow the games and show support. They're now tracking the games via their mobile devices when they're not able to watch, and they're further engaging with games via mobile devices, tablets, and connected TVs when they're actually watching the games. It's changing the viewing experience and allowing us to stay up with the tournament in unprecedented real time and with a deep level of information.

Even bracket games are evolving - Yahoo!'s game is one of the most popular in the market and this year we're offering a game with in a game, with the "Tourney Pick 'Em Celebrity Bracket", a free, bracket-style game hosted by Drew Brees, Michael Phelps, and Lil Wayne. Proceeds will go to the charity of these celebrity participants' choice and include Brees Dream (Drew Brees), Michael Phelps Foundation (Michael Phelps), or One Family (Lil Wayne). Throughout the tournament, the celebrities will be posting and tweeting out invitations for fans to join their groups, share their brackets, and talk smack about the tournament. While the games are going on, the celebrities will go head to head against each other until the championship game.

Kristina: With live content streaming from CBS as well as the Yahoo initiatives, do you expect record-breaking viewing sessions this year?

Patrick: Yahoo! is the leading online destination around major events. During the recent 2012 awards season, for example, Yahoo! Golden Globes 2012 saw 60-69% growth in audience reach (unique users) and 60% growth in time spent over last year. Our Golden Globes and Grammys coverage saw similar growth patterns and we expect our coverage of the tournament to be equally, if not more, exciting for our users.

We know that roughly 70-80% of consumers are doing multiple things as they watch TV, and sports are actually one of the top areas where people consume additional content while they're watching the events. So this year, we expect not only significant traffic around our coverage, but we are introducing new experiences that enhance the viewing experience for consumers, deliver our content in new ways, and are exciting for brands.

Kristina: Tell me, briefly, how the Mercedes initiative works? And what these advertisers gain from campaigns like these?

Patrick: Advertisers are constantly looking for new ways to stand out, and this becomes even more important during big, multi-advertiser events like the NCAA Tournament. Mercedes-Benz is a brand that represents innovation to their consumers, and they want to continue to reach people who understand and appreciate technological advancement. Based on this goal, they are going to be integrated within Yahoo! content across our four screen coverage of the tournament - desktop, mobile, tablet and TV - in order to reach that tech savvy/early adopter audience. During the live broadcasts, more than eight million households will be able to interact with Mercedes-Benz via Yahoo!'s Connected TV Platform (available across Samsung, Sony, Toshiba and Vizio TVs) and they will be able to check in for a co-viewing experience via social TV app IntoNow from Yahoo!.

Tags: content sponsorship, content trends, March Madness, NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament, online advertising, Yahoo

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