March Madness Is a Slam Dunk for Marketers.

Marketers are turning bracket campaigns into unique customer engagement tools that increase shares and website visits.

Sporting events, like March Madness, play into consumers' competitive spirits. Through their digital marketing efforts, brands can involve themselves in the conversation their audiences are already having, and become both more relevant and more relatable. In this way, taking a consumer-driven approach can really pay off.

Bracket campaigns are a fantastic way to hint at March Madness, while not talking directly about college basketball. Instead, these campaigns can make all consumers feel they are part of the hype, even if they're not sports experts. Instead of voting for teams, marketers can ask consumers to vote for their favorite products, services, or media related to their brands. Brackets can create a tournament-style atmosphere around practically anything.

For example, individuals may be snacking on your products during watch parties or maybe diehard fans will utilize your services as they travel to the Final Four. Thinking about the competitive nature of this event can also be helpful when planning marketing campaigns. Consumers are likely already voting on their favorite teams, and creating brackets with friends and co-workers. Launching campaigns that mirror these actions naturally integrates a company's products and services into consumers' lives during this time. For example, marketers could pair off unique uses of your products head-to-head and have consumers crown the ultimate winner by voting.

Offerpop has run several campaigns in the past that center on sporting events. Some of the most popular ones that launch this time of year are bracket campaigns. For example, The Green Bay Packers increased their relevancy in March by creating a campaign that allowed users to vote on fan photos from the previous season by placing them head-to-head. The campaign itself looked similar to a March Madness bracket, which capitalized on consumers' natural behaviors. Since Green Bay fans are first and foremost sports fans, this campaign aligned itself with audience interest. Because this campaign featured photos from fans themselves, it was extremely shareable among those who wanted their images to advance to the next voting rounds.

Another example is TransAmerica, which launched a bracket campaign surrounding the idea of an ideal retirement. The brand asked users questions like, "Would you rather spend time with friends or become a silver entrepreneur?" Through these questions, TransAmerica engaged an audience that may or may not be deeply interested in college sports, but is undeniably interested in planning for the future. Adding incentives to a campaign can further inspire participation. This particular campaign serves as a great example since they offered American Express gift cards as prizes for a few lucky entrant members.

March Madness-centric campaigns not only leverage consumer behavior, but they keep fans coming back for more. After voting on a first-round head-to-head question, individuals become emotionally invested and are curious to find out if their selections advanced to the next rounds. This increases the likelihood of people re-visiting your campaign page, and engaging with the bracket again. Additionally, at the core of March Madness campaigns is a consumer-first approach that takes audiences through all digital marketing efforts. By putting yourself in your audience's shoes, you will ultimately create campaigns that feel natural and authentic.