Slope Blog

The Roundup: Marketing March Madness

[fa icon="calendar"] 3/30/18 10:38 AM / by Brian Bosché

Welcome to The Roundup, a weekly series in which Hassaan, Slope's Creative Manager, and myself, CEO & Co-Founder, discuss news from across the marketing and creative industry. In honor of March Madness, we are talking about sports marketing! Some of the strongest and most loved brands in the world are sports teams, and there is a lot to learn about how they engage with their audiences.

You can watch the full video below, and read through this blog post for quick links to the topics we discuss.

Signal vs. Noise in the sports world. How can you stand out in sports marketing during events and games?

We have a content volume problem in sports.

UMBC establishing brand and voice, even with no visual content.

Did UMBC take advantage of their moment from a brand perspective?

Technology is giving more access to teams. What do you like/not like about this type of access?

University of Michigan following Jordan Poole into the locker room and the celebration afterwards.

Dartmouth Men's Basketball Flannel Night

Flannel Night. Need we say more?


Full transcript

Brian: Welcome to this week's episode of The Roundup, working title. But I'm pretty excited for this week because in honor of March Madness we will be covering sports marketing, which is a little bit more in my neck in the woods.

Hassaan: Yeah you know last episode we did Oscar week, which, or Oscar season, which I'm definitely the film buff out of the two of us, he's definitely the sports fan.

Brian: This week we're gonna be covering a few things. Number one, especially in honor of March Madness, how can these organizations engage their fans during games? 'Cause there are so many going on, there's so much noise. Number two, how do these teams and organizations take advantage of the unique access they have to players and coaches and the organization in general? And number three is a really special treat, there's a shout-out to Dartmouth men's basketball, they haven't made the tournament since 1959, but they put out one of the greatest sports promos I have ever seen.

Hassaan: It's always a big deal in content marketing, online marketing to signal the noise. You know what I'm saying? It's always, everybody is putting out shit all the time.

Brian: The volume problem.

Hassaan: Yep. There's always a volume problem, and I mean what better example of a volume problem than sports, and not only sports, March Madness. I mean everybody is going nuts marketing wise. It's a big bonanza, and I mean I kinda just feel like there's too much shit out there. You know what I'm saying? Like-

Brian: Well especially for like a casual fan, like when we were watching The Office a couple weeks ago, it's like Jesus, how many games are there? It was just one after the other, three at a time, so there is a huge volume problem. There's a lot of noise in the space.

Hassaan: So I mean like how do you stand out? What do you do? What are you supposed to do? How are you supposed to engage with your fans let's say during a game?

Brian: I think before you even talk about how do you stand out you have to take a step back and prepare for that moment. So that's where it's so important to understand what's your brand, what kind of voice do you want on social-

Hassaan: So you need a strong brand?

Brian: So I think there is a big difference between just general brand and general voice, and what kind of voice you're gonna have on social.

Hassaan: If you're trying to reach me and this is the casual semi sports fan, if you're trying to reach me I'm gonna need you to be flaming the other team, or people in the crowd, which I don't know if that's ever gonna be brand appropriate. I mean maybe it is.

Brian: Well you would have liked UMBC's Twitter feed then.

Hassaan: Yeah I heard they were going nuts.

Brian: Yeah so UMBC if you didn't know first 16 seed to take out a one seed in the NCAA tournament. They beat Virginia in the first round, and it wasn't even, it was a blowout.

Hassaan: Right.

Brian: And UMBC is University of Maryland, Baltimore County, the Retrievers.

Hassaan: Strong.

Brian: And they kind of went viral on Twitter, and whoever runs their Twitter account and social accounts did an incredible job of providing that color commentary. They kind of took the underdog brand approach where like "No one believed in us," and like "Look what the score is now," and I think they really kind of nailed their voice on their social accounts.

Hassaan: So they know their voice, but what are they gonna do when they're out of the spotlight. You know what I'm saying? 'Cause it's one thing to have your brand voice on deck, but okay so now they're flaming people, and I know I'm kind of retreating 'cause I just said that's all I need from a brand. You know what I'm saying? But-

Brian: Well maybe in the moment that's all you need, but in five, ten years-

Hassaan: Exactly.

Brian: Are you gonna remember UMBC?

Hassaan: Exactly.

Brian: So that's actually, there's a really good article on this that we'll link to, but it was talking about "Okay, you have this audience in this moment," and the argument in this article was they didn't do a good enough job solidifying their differentiation. So they had a great voice, people really appreciated their social voice, but there was nothing that they did that would make you remember what they stood for in ten years. You know we talked about setting the stage for your brand and voice before those games so that you're prepared when the actual games happen, but what if something amazing happens. Are you prepared for that to really take advantage and differentiate your brand? Cool.

Hassaan: Sweet.

Brian: Go Retrievers. Or Go Loyola? Loyola Chicago, Sister Jean.

Hassaan: Sister Jean, cheers to Sister Jean.

Brian: Teams now more than ever have really unique access to players, coaches, the organization in general.

Hassaan: Why now more than ever?

Brian: So there's a few things, one is I think as a culture we want to get to know individuals more, but it's also technology and the different channels that are available. They can capture stuff that really has never been captured before. That's anything from a podcast with players to following them into the locker room after a big victory. So the example from March Madness was the University of Michigan social team did an incredible job after they hit that buzzer beater. Jordan Poole, freshman, hit the buzzer beater, they go crazy, and they flow into the locker room, and usually from the broadcast that's all you see. But in this case, they followed them into the locker room, the social media coordinator had the phone out, and they're just capturing the entire kind of chaos that ensued within these locker rooms. So I love that 'cause I wanna see everything. I don't get sports content overload. But from your perspective, what kind of access is good access? What's the control here?

Hassaan: I don't like commoditizing people, but then it's like that's a whole nother discussion 'cause we're talking about especially college sports let alone professional sports.

Brian: Oh we don't wanna get into-

Hassaan: Yeah.

Brian: NCAA versus yeah.

Hassaan: But I would prefer it better if like a player runs into the locker room, whips their phone out, and is like "Yo, 'cause I'm about to swag out."

Brian: Okay so you're more player first. So does it feel-

Hassaan: Not even necessarily player first, I'm more so like if a player is doing it, then I'm like there's braggadocio, like I'm watching I'm swagging out. You know what I'm saying? If the social media coordinators doing it, I mean like in three years, in two years, next year, you're gonna have these conversations with the team like "Okay guys, if you guys win let's really whoop it up in the locker room so I can get this on Twitter."

Brian: So you think it's staged if it's university focused or sports team is the one producing it rather than the players themselves?

Hassaan: It has potential, it almost inevitably will become more staged, just like fake Instagram lives and all that shit. You know what I'm saying?

Brian: What's the balance they can strike then? 'Cause they have unique access, they can go in the locker room all they want. They can grab the players after practice. They can have this kind of unique relationship with the team that al to of people don't have, and as fans I want that. So what do you think is a good balance?

Hassaan: If you're in March Madness, if you're doing the shit like if you wanna be a star athlete, star is a part of the star athlete and you gotta know what you're signing up for. At the same time though, I just know that I would hate it if I'm like "Damn, like here's another aspect of my privacy that's gonna be encroached on."

Brian: So almost like we talked about before engaging in a game you gotta understand your brand voice.

Hassaan: Yeah.

Brian: So what is your plan for this unique access? 'Cause I agree, like if I ever like catch a whiff that it's not organic and they're like staging everything behind the scenes, I'm not gonna like that and they're not gonna be rewarded for that type of stuff.

Hassaan: Right right right.

Brian: But I do see a lot of value in getting to know the players, getting to know the team behind, 'cause just as humans we like things we know better.

Hassaan: And you know like it's not like that these players don't have outside personalities anyway, and so it's just like you know, give them, especially at the collegiate level, like give them some voice, give them some authority over how they're gonna be presented as they have to be ready for the camera further and further away from the court.

Brian: Because you're right. I love player first stuff. When the running man challenge went viral with the University of Maryland basketball team, and then like Villanova did it and all these popular programs did it, that was hilarious 'cause it was in the locker room after practice, it was like at a grocery store. Totally player run, the social media team didn't coordinate it at all. So I love that and I think that represented their brands really well. But that is the fuzzy line of how much do you balance "Okay we need to feature the players, but how my can they produce themselves, how can they work with you from a social media perspective for the brand, and how do those interact?"

Hassaan: You know what my end all solution is just pay 'em.

Brian: Pay 'em

Hassaan: Just pay 'em. Just cash 'em out. Just pay the players.

Brian: Or you don't have to pay the players, let them make money. But we said we weren't gonna go into this.

Hassaan: You know ...

Brian: NCAA...

Hassaan: Cash 'em out.

Brian: Let your players get paid.

Hassaan: Let your players get paid.

Brian: Are you ready for this? Are you ready for this Hassan?

Hassaan: You won't.

Brian: You won't Hassan. This is the greatest sports promo I have ever seen. It comes from my alma mater, near and dear to my heart. Have to shout out to them because they haven't made the NCAA tournament since 1959, which is very long ago.

Hassaan: I don't know if that is like enough to justify this. This is-

Brian: The greatest ad of all time.

Hassaan: Burning my eyes. This is very hard to look at.

Brian: So from a couple perspectives, let's take a step back-

Hassaan: And I like, well I don't know if I can say I like flannel anymore after this.

Brian: There are so many lines of text, I hadn't even noticed the flannel background.

Hassaan: Yeah, no yeah.

Brian: It's flannel guard with flannel background.

Hassaan: Senior guard Taylor Johnson.

Brian: It's an accomplishment in graphic design and marketing. I wish I was a senior guard.

Hassaan: So this isn't you?

Brian: This is not me.

Hassaan: So I didn't take this picture yesterday, five minutes ago?

Brian: I can't grow that much facial hair. But not only is it flannel night, it is trying to break a Guinness World Record for the most tartan flannel gathering where the previous record was only 1100.

Hassaan: Breaking the Guinness World Record for largest gathering of people wearing tartan flannel is an achievable goal.

Brian: It is achievable.

Hassaan: That in itself, that sentence-

Brian: I'm shocked it's so low. How is that so low?

Hassaan: Is amazing to me. That's enough.

Brian: But the funny thing about that is even if they didn't know it was flannel night, most likely they would be walking in with flannel anyway.

Hassaan: But this is the thing, are they gonna be walking in with flannel, or are they gonna be off the red walking in with the Dartmouth school flannel tartan?

Brian: That one. If you have the most creative flannel, $100 gift card to Vermont Flannel. So if you show your commitment to flannel they reward you with more flannel. And if that wasn't enough, first 200 fans get a free maple creemee.

Hassaan: I just feel like nobody's gonna have that in their wardrobe off the top. They might, but-

Brian: Won't have flannel?

Hassaan: No, the most creative flannel outfit.

Brian: Oh the most creative flannel. Got it.

Hassaan: I mean, granted apparently people are very well versed in the flannel at the Mouth, but it's like, I just feel like I'm not even gonna break even. Like yo, $100 gift card ...

Brian: You're definitely gonna spend more than $100 to get $100.

Hassaan: I'm definitely gonna spend a couple hundred to get the most outrageous flannel outfit.

Brian: But I just wanna shout out to Dartmouth. Incredible work with this. This is what gets people excited. Alright? You have to generate some excitement if you haven't made the tournament in 60 years, this is just a normal season game, they definitely didn't make it to the tournament this year, and I appreciate this.

Hassaan: Apparently Amherst women's basketball is shitting on everybody.

Brian: Oh really?

Hassaan: Yeah.

Brian: Well yeah. I mean Amherst is great at DIII.

Hassaan: Fuck you Bryan. Alright that's the end of our show. Subscribe somewhere there's a button.

Brian: Comment, follow us.

Hassaan: Invite your friends.

Brian: If you have a topic you wanna discuss let us know we're open to suggestions.

Hassaan: Hit us up on Twitter, on Facebook, on YouTube.

Brian: Happy March Madness.


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Brian Bosché

Written by Brian Bosché

Brian is the CEO & Co-Founder of Slope. He previously ran a TernPro Creative, creative agency in Detroit, and worked with technology startups in the original class of Venture for America Fellows.