Forget the start of spring–this month is all about March Madness. Year after year, the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament captures brand and consumer attention across industries. Everyone wants a piece: from corporate sponsors like AT&T to brands piggybacking on the craze (here’s looking at you, Via), companies are capitalizing on the sports showcase hype.
It’s not enough to offer freebies anymore, though. The brands upping their game to win March Madness this year are using innovative technology to provide an experience that goes beyond a gratis t-shirt. Whether they’re on the wood or in the nosebleeds, using VR or just trying to win that pool of cash, here’s how brands are catering to a variety of customers.
Intel True VR technology is giving fans a truly immersive experience–and they don’t even have to be at the game. Intel is live-streaming games through virtual reality and 360-degree replay technologies. Not only does this allow fans who can’t make it to a game be part of the play-by-play, but it also gives them an enhanced experience. Fans can experience a personalized perspective, including highlight footage and views from different angles. Without leaving their couches, fans simply choose a premium ticketing option via the NCAA March Madness Live VR app.
While team fanatics flock to arenas (or opt for VR), March Madness also sees its share of fair-weather fans. Whether it’s a company-wide competition or a group of college buds, everyone wants to play. Enter the portable playbook, or the ESPN Tournament Challenge App. The experience is seamless: choose your own players or allow the app to autofill your bracket. Some users will download the app solely for easy access to game times as well as push notifications about their teams. Customers love a sense of community, and this app facilitates participation.
These high-stress games work up an appetite, and Pizza Hut is already in the kitchen. The company released 64 pairs of limited edition Pie Tops, which are smart sneakers enabled with Bluetooth and geolocation technology through an app. Customers can order a pizza from the nearest location just by pressing a button on the tongue of the Pie Tops. Pizza Hut is taking the delivery experience to another level, letting customers get their order in without taking their eyes off the TV screen.
Just one unexpected upset can bust your bracket, so Coca-Cola is stepping in to offer fans a few ways to refresh. NCAA March Madness Bracket Refresh is a digital campaign in which customers enter product codes using a smartphone scan or online entry for changes to win prizes and access to content. The storied soda brand gives casual and diehard fans a chance to win big by extending the experience past the basketball bracket. Coca-Cola also reminds us that customers love personalization; this is the first year they are offering fans glass bottles branded with team logos and nicknames representing more than 50 colleges. Fans can further customize their eight-ounce bottles on ShareaCoke.com/teams.
From the couch to the court, the brands winning the March Madness marketing game have their eyes on customer experience.