Level up your March Madness marketing game: Digital out-of-home strategies for advertisers

March 13, 2024Quinn Mason

Few live sporting events deliver excitement and anticipation on the scale of the NCAA’s March Madness competition. From office pools to bracket challenges, the tournament sparks conversations and captivates audiences across the U.S. and beyond. Starting mid-March through the first week of April, millions of viewers will tune in to the live-broadcast sports event, representing a tentpole marketing opportunity for brands looking to make a splash while boosting visibility and engagement.

With TV ad spots during live games ranging from a few hundred thousand to upwards of $2 million, it’s worth considering out-of-home (OOH) media and digital out-of-home (DOOH) media to reach fans while they’re out and about. Here’s a look at why and how you can leverage the channel to elevate your March Madness game.

Why DOOH is a slam dunk for sports advertising

Thanks to the medium’s large, eye-catching formats and bright screens, outdoor advertising offers unrivaled creative opportunities for brands looking to level up their sports advertising efforts around March Madness. Highly flexible, easily scalable, and ad-block-proof, DOOH integrates seamlessly into people’s everyday lives, reaching consumers as they go about their days and offering brands repeated (and contextually relevant) exposure at a lower cost compared to TV ads. Not only that, but the number of games — 67 Division 1 men’s league games, plus 67 Division 1 women’s — and the variety of locations they’re played at give advertisers audience levels (and targeting opportunities) they can’t find anywhere else.

March Madness OOH display via Clear Channel

Leveraging DOOH tactics for March Madness

Whether or not your brand is affiliated with the NCAA, tapping into the excitement of the tournament can be a key strategy to drive real-world action amongst sports fans. With today’s dynamic DOOH technology, advertisers can easily adapt their campaign creative to the audience’s current context, automatically adjusting the visuals and messaging with the help of real-time data.

Target strategic, high-traffic locations to drive brand awareness

Point of Interest & Proximity Ads: Placing digital billboards or screens near arenas or venues where games are being held can capture the attention of fans before and after the events, ensuring maximum exposure to target audiences. For example, an affiliated sports apparel brand could display ads showcasing its latest merchandise or game-day specials, while an NCAA team or sponsor can leverage location-based targeting to drive last-minute ticket sales.

Brands or official teams and sponsors can strategically display ads near specific locations like colleges or universities frequented by target demographics, amplifying their reach and resonance with the intended audience. If mobile device IDs are captured within a geofenced area around OOH screens, brands can later retarget exposed audiences with relevant ads post-tournament, extending the campaign’s reach and momentum.

Local business engagement: With games (and fans) spread all across the US, tailoring content based on location can make the advertising more relevant and engaging for viewers in that area — plus, it gives local advertisers not directly affiliated with March Madness the opportunity to capitalize on this tentpole moment. For example, local businesses like sports bars or restaurants can take advantage of the excitement by activating OOH ads that direct audiences to locations where they can watch the game or take advantage of game-day offers.

Retail: Whether local or on a national level, retailers and brands can engage in-store shoppers primed to make a purchase by running ads on screens in locations where specific products are stocked. A beverage or snack brand, for example, could run targeted ads in grocery stores, promoting game-time necessities or offering discounts to incentivize last-minute purchases. 

Michelob ULTRA beer OOH ad via Lamar

Incorporate dynamic and interactive content to better engage viewers

By incorporating real-time updates and other contextually relevant content, advertisers can keep viewers engaged and immersed in the March Madness excitement. Activating DOOH ads programmatically enables advertisers to adjust messaging based on real-time scores, live tournament updates, and the location of games or DOOH ad displays. Moreover, businesses like restobars or retailers can leverage pDOOH to automatically adjust ads based on factors like inventory levels, time of day, special offers and more. Integrating interactive and other dynamic DOOH features like QR codes, live social media feeds, and countdowns also create opportunities for sports fans to interact with brands in actionable ways.

Amplify the impact of your omnichannel campaign strategy with DOOH

Research shows that DOOH strengthens campaigns running on social media across KPIs like brand relevance, likeability, and authenticity. By integrating hashtags, QR codes, or interactive elements into ad creative, brands can inspire audiences to engage with their content and share their experiences online. This not only extends the reach of the campaign but also cultivates a sense of community among fans. 

Brands should consider prominently displaying URLs, social media handles, and hashtags on DOOH ads to boost online engagement further. Ads can also encourage audiences to share their game-day highlights, photos, or videos related to a specific campaign on social media – driving deeper engagement and interaction.

READ ALSO: Beyond digital boundaries: How to maximize campaign impact with DOOH and social media

Ready to build a more impactful March Madness OOH campaign?

With Selection Sunday less than a week away, advertisers looking to cash in on this year’s action can still leverage programmatic DOOH to plan and activate last-minute campaigns — or quickly launch ads in new markets as the tournament progresses. If every March Madness ad dollar is already accounted for, consider taking these strategies to plan ahead for the next season. 

Contact our team to get started!