It’s the biggest U.S. tent pole event after the Super Bowl and the Grammys. Yes, you’ve got it: March Madness. With millions of brackets played among friends and colleagues, it’s no wonder that friendships and alliances begin (or end) during this annual U.S. tradition.  What’s unique about this event is its ability to bring together diverse groups including college sports fanatics, gamers, and yes, even gamblers. Although the odds of creating a perfect bracket are against us, online content creators can still increase their chances of reaching and engaging more fans during this two-week period by posting the right content at the right time.

UGC March Madness Videos

From March 14th – April 3rd of this year, engagement on March Madness video content exploded compared to last year. Engagement increased by +127% compared to content uploaded during the 2016 March Madness two-week period on one of the major platforms. What could have caused such an increase? I’m glad you asked.This year one of the top viral videos was about March Madness “hitting the classroom:

When March Madness hits the classroom. (Submitted by @samuelgrubbs)

A post shared by House of Highlights (@houseofhighlights) on

It was so compelling it was reposted by House of Highlights, Bleacher Report, Best Celebrations, Best Videos, and Whistle Sports to name a few. This video made up 9% of all March Madness content viewed on March 19th and has a total of 9.2M views and 978K engagements across the top 12 posts. The video was relatable and sparked feelings of nostalgia encouraging viewers to reminisce about their ‘good ol’ high school days. There was also a lot of chatter referring to the “The Get Out Challenge” at the end. If you don’t know what The Get Out Challenge is, that is a totally different article that we can revisit at a later date.

Ironically, in 2016, the most engaging video uploaded during March Madness was a video of the Kansas Football team playing a basketball game. It’s content that, I like to refer to as March Madness “adjacent”. It indirectly refers to the main event, but it’s compelling by the sheer nature of being unusual such as making basketball shots that are rare or highlights of game upsets that make or break brackets (and in some instances friendships).  The sentiment on the Kansas football video was less than favorable and blamed their losing season on making ‘basketball’ videos as opposed to do what many think they should be doing which is playing football. But nonetheless, it generated 1M+ views to date and over 120K engagements.

Official Elite 8 Video Content

If we turn our attention to content uploaded specifically by teams that made it to the Elite 8 this year, North Carolina reigns with views, engagements and the most gained cross-platform subscribers/followers during the tournament. This was true even before they made it to the Final 4.

Uploaded content showing their progression throughout the tournament spiked along a number of different metrics. Their “Survive and Advance” to the Sweet #16 had almost 1M views the day it was uploaded. When they advanced to the Final Four, that video had almost 2.5x times that amount in the first day. So, the key takeaway to engaging fans on official video content is to keep winning, and then brag about it!! However, that’s no easy feat. With that being said, you can always take the opposite approach and be an underdog coming in to the tournament causing a huge upset like the Badgers which would yield similar results. If you ask me, I’d personally recommend the former.

March Madness Sponsored Content

So, how are brands leveraging March Madness? They are getting more views per video compared to overall March Madness content. Of the sponsored March Madness content we are tracking, sponsored videos have an average of 154K views/video compared to 9K views per video for overall content.

Sponsored content was created by brands across various categories including food & beverage, travel and hospitality, finance and more. SoFi’s spotlight on Rip Hamilton stole the show with over 3M views boosting the finance category as the most viewed. Food & beverage brands didn’t do too shabby with 1.4M views. Overall sponsored content made up 4% of overall March Madness content, but 8% of the total engagements.

Conclusion

When thinking about your social media strategy for 2018, you can take a few approaches that will up the ante on getting views and engagements. As a fan, you can create high-energy unofficial content capturing unusual or funny clips. As a team, you can progress your way to the championship and post about it (locker room scenes do well), or you can have the worst record throughout the season, get a low seed rank and cause an upset in the tournament.

Lastly, if you’re a brand, creating sentimental content highlighting the tournament’s brightest stars tends to soften the hearts of engagers. This is the perfect time to reach a demographic that video content creators may not easily have access to otherwise. In case you’re wondering how I did in my bracket, I’m proud to say that I won Tubular’s company-wide bracket thanks to North Carolina! Until next time, I wish you well in preparing for March Madness 2018!