College basketball fans look forward to the month of March every year. The NCAA Tournament, also known as March Madness, is where every game matters — the players are laser-focused, the energy is electric, the outcome unpredictable, and the fans (including the fair-weather ones) want in on the action! I mean, seriously, how many bracket competitions did you participate in this year?
With the rise of live video, mobile and social media, the camaraderie, trash talking and always-on connection you feel with friends, fans and rivals has also evolved to an entirely new level. Building on this trend, my company Tagboard worked with the NCAA to bring #MarchMadness to life with live social media displays inside EACH and EVERY tournament stadium including the highly anticipated #FinalFour at the University of Phoenix Stadium this weekend.
With all of the in-stadium breaks, timeouts, and halftime, it’s not as easy as it used to be to keep fan attention. According to the 2016 Nielsen Total Audience Report for Q3, on average, U.S. adults ages 18–24 spent over 57 hours per week consuming media. Over 20 hours (35.6%) of their media time was spent on their smartphones. What does that mean for sports marketers hoping to catch the attention of fans in-stadium? It means you have to find ways to connect the in-stadium experience to your fan’s second screen, a.k.a. the mobile experience. Enter engaging and innovative social media displays.
At the tournament stadiums this year, fans were able to post using #MarchMadness on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for a chance to be featured on the giant video boards driving spikes in user generated content in-stadium.
Tagboard Live Social Media Display: Florida vs. Wisconsin #MarchMadness, Madison Square Garden
Perhaps the most fun engagement tactic NCAA deployed was Tagboard’s new #MarchMadness Hashtag Battle which allows fans to participate in “battling” on social media while their team battles it out on the hardwood. The live social media display pulls in real-time aggregated results from passionate fans on social supporting their March Madness teams.
Tagboard Live Social Media Display: Hashtag Battle Oregon vs. Kansas #MarchMadness, Sprint Center
It’s been a wild ride watching the Hashtag Battles go down, seeing who rallies around their team the most. For example, #GoZags vs. #LetsGoX in the Gonzaga vs. Xavier game had the Zags fans furiously tapping away at their phones. The team walked away with the W, and the fans also won by a whopping 3,567 posts to 688.
The crux of the matter is that sports fans love competition and camaraderie. By producing live social media displays and putting them up on the stadium’s giant video boards with a call to action, it’s feeding that competitive beast, driving engagement, and gaining even more support for the teams and the NCAA.
To create the 360 degree approach, Tagboard launched a new product feature that allowed NCAA and other partners to embed a #FinalFour Hashtag Battle on their web and mobile properties. In celebration of the #FinalFour, Tagboard also created a Hashtag Battle display embed code for any blog or digital publication to use, to encourage their readers to participate in “battling” for their favorite Final Four team this season.
Working with the NCAA, Tagboard is connecting fans to the teams they love through their mobile devices like never before, in packed arenas, and online, for every matchup. We’ve created a 360-degree approach to fan engagement so that no matter where a fan is, he or she can connect with their favorite team, engage in the conversation and have their voice be heard. This has had a profound impact on conversational volume. In fact, we see an average of a 10x increase in social mentions of a team’s hashtag when a Tagboard is on display in their stadium.
As we head into this weekend’s games, we wish the Final Four teams and their dedicated fans the best of luck. And we look forward to battling online as we cheer on our favorite teams.