The final game for the NCAA men’s championship tournament drew 22.3 million sets of eyeballs. That’s a 37 percent drop from the previous year, but still not an insignificant number. An estimated 185 million people tune into March Madness overall, making it one of the largest home-viewing experiences in all of U.S. sports.
Over the course of the month-long tourney, of course, tens of millions more people tuned in to see the best in college hoops giving their all to have their team name etched into the history books. That kind of passionate viewership, of course, honey to marketers looking for buzz. It also explains why Coca-Cola has been part of March Madness for 15 years and this year, it’s using the occasion to leverage a campaign — Share-a-Coke — in a way that lets college basketball fans show their pride, too.
Basketball lovers will be able to buy customized Coke bottles with team logos, nicknames, and battle cries for more than 50 colleges and universities. There are 68 squads in the men’s tournament so a few teams won’t be represented. The limited-edition bottles can be bought online, where fans can also, of course, share the bottle images with their Facebook friends.
Until April 14, fans can customize and order single 8-oz. glass bottles or six-packs featuring the logo, nickname or battle cry for more than 50 colleges and universities. March Madness, The Big Dance®, Sweet Sixteen®, Elite Eight® and Final Four® bottles are available, too.
Todd Skidmore, senior manager, eCommerce, Coca-Cola North America, said college basketball is a natural fit for ShareaCoke.com, where fans can personalize and order a Coca-Cola glass bottle with their name on it.
“It’s all about inviting people to share a Coca-Cola with friends and family, making everyday moments even more special,” he said. “With these new limited-edition team bottles, fans can now show support for their teams and their love of Coca-Cola all tournament long.”
— The Coca-Cola Co. (@CocaColaCo) March 14, 2017
Kasia Horner, who leads NCAA sports marketing for Coca-Cola, said the ShareaCoke.com promotion shows how the company continues to innovate and engage March Madness fans in fun, fresh ways. “March Madness is a cultural phenomenon, and the most passionate fans of March Madness are the college and university students and alumni, especially at this point in the season.”
She added, “Our college and university partners are very excited to participate and see their school logo on the iconic Coca-Cola contour bottle.”
This isn’t the only way Coke is getting in on the March Madness madness. Coke and Powerade are sponsoring a NCAA March Madness Bracket Refresh, an online way for fans to keep track of the games while Coke keeps track of the fans.
After the first- and second-round games at noon ET on March 20, Coca-Cola and POWERADE will release more entries for the teams that make it to the Sweet Sixteen, giving people more chances to win. At that time and until noon ET on March 23, more fans can enter the promotion or refresh their busted brackets to get back in the game.
“When you scan a code, you’ll receive a seed and have the chance to win prizes as that team advances through the bracket,” Horner explains. “What makes this different from other bracket promotions is that your seed may lose in the first round, but you have the chance to refresh your bracket heading into the second weekend. So, we’re giving people more opportunities to win, even after their brackets are initially busted.”
Fans can earn digital content, movie gift cards, and online retailer gift cards and be entered into the Grand Prize Sweepstakes for the chance to win $25,000 cash. As part of the Bracket Refresh Sweepstakes, fans have the chance to win a trip for two to the 2018 Final Four in San Antonio.
Coca-Cola has also teamed up with Capital One to sponsor a big-name March Madness music festival. Aerosmith, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, and the Chainsmokers are all on the bill for the three-day festival that kicks off in Phoenix in conjunction with the start of Final Four weekend, March 31.