This article was originally published on reverb, Drake Cooper’s reflections on advertising, creativity, and trends. Read more.

Most Popular March Madness In 21 Years

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“This is new territory. It’s been interesting for engagement rates and net followers. We’ve been really pleased.”

-Blair Klein, Social & Digital Lead, AT&T

 

When you fill out your March Madness bracket you’re certain that the winning picks are right there in your hands. All 64 teams, correctly chosen, by you. You’re the only one, out of 60 million brackets, who has it right. And then the tournament begins and things start to unravel until the bracket with the least-worst picks is the only one still standing.

America loves March Madness. And this year we watched more of it than ever. On average, 9.8 million people tuned in to each game prior to Final Four play, which is the highest tournament viewership since 1993. With a 6.2 rating and 13 share, the average game was pulling in more viewers than a strong prime time sitcom.

As for the Final Four, they were the two most-watched college basketball games in cable TV history with 12 million and 16 million viewers, respectively. Nearly four million streamed live.

So which advertisers stood out this year? It seems there were two, and they both did it online.

First, Nike outfitted 78 percent of the teams (topping adidas by a 52-to-13 margin), which is probably why they chose promoted tweets. Some occurred at the start of the tournament, others were launched as stories developed.

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Then AT&T created Courtside Access, a portal that combined newsrooming, real-time marketing and second-screening all together. The brand spent $120,000 per day on Twitter Promoted Trends. Perhaps you saw it. Every image carried AT&T along with it.

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Twitter, it seems, was where most of the innovative marketing action was this year.