March Madness Sales Ideas to Engage Prospects & Customers

Brackets, buzzer-beaters, upsets, and college basketball. Follow these March Madness® sales and marketing ideas to warm up prospects.
March Madness Sales Ideas to Try

That’s right, it’s March Madness time. Even if you’re not a committed NCAA sports fan, many of your customers and prospects follow their favorite matchups.

March Madness is a great way to capture attention and demonstrate you connect with people at a personal level. However, this isn’t the time to send a foam #1 finger or a team jersey — if you’re doing this, you’re doing it wrong.

Not to worry, though. We’re going to give you the plays you need to use an event like March Madness in a way that drives your sales teams straight to the net for an easy alley-oop.

If you’ve already got your face paint on for your alma mater, skip to our tips for marketers and sales teams.

For those who have to Google how much a three-pointer is worth (we’re not judging), continue reading for a primer on exactly what The Big Dance® is all about.

We Ballin - March Madness Sales Tips

March Madness Basics: Primer for Newbies

Let’s start from the top. 🏀

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is a nonprofit organization that organizes student-athletes across 1,200 colleges and universities. Its schools are divided into three divisions, where Division 1 consists of major college sports teams with larger budgets and facilities.

March Madness is a 68-team basketball tournament featuring the highest level of college basketball, known as Division I. Each March, these teams compete in single-elimination matchups.

These high-stakes battles mean if a team loses, they’re out of the tournament. These games are divided into tournament brackets until there is one champion.

But seriously, why should you care, and why does this tournament matter so much?

For starters, it’s all the best things about sports, such as underdogs and upsets, and rivalries without the pomp and circumstance (looking at you, Superbowl halftime show).

Likewise, college basketball means a lot to many, many people. According to Nielsen, 58% of the adult population in the United States is interested in college basketball. Last year, nearly 19 million people watched the Baylor-Gonzaga championship game.

This makes March Madness marketing campaigns a great way to build rapport around a common interest, whether loyalty to their alma mater or joking about an ongoing rivalry.

Want proof? Put someone from Duke and someone from North Carolina in the same room, and the conversation will probably go a bit like this:

North Carolina - Sales & Marketing Ideas for March Madness

After the last couple of years, there’s been no shortage of Zoom meetings and conference calls. So naturally, this creates a broad appeal to unwind and celebrate communal sports events.

Sports, and by extension, the NCAA basketball tournament, have been a taste of return to “normal.”

Okay, now let’s dive into tips to drive awareness for your brand with March Madness-themed marketing campaigns.

March Madness Advice for Marketers

Stand out in a meaningful way by using this time to connect with your audience. It’s a busy month (and quarter), so here are some pointers to sweeten your March Madness campaign.

1) Tap into your audience’s interests.

Behind every effective March Madness campaign, keep this simple syllogism in mind:

Not all basketball fans follow March Madness,
but all March Madness fans love basketball.

It’s crucial that you understand whether the people you’re reaching out to are just basketball fans or if they follow a local team in particular. One cue could be to glance at what they share on social media, including their “Likes” on Twitter.

2) Add an incentive to marketing events.

We won’t be the first to tell you that not everyone is on the edge of their seat to attend your webinar. However, an attractive incentive lowers their barrier to attending.

Alyce Activate - Corporate Gifting Solution for Marketers

When determining the ideal budget for your incentive, pull your metrics to know the value of a new customer (CLV) compared to your actual acquisition costs (CAC). It’s likely many brands can afford $50–100 if it means a qualified prospect moves into a consideration phase.

Alyce Activate lets demand-gen teams send a gift as a part of their existing marketing campaign. For example, you could use it before or after a webinar to drive awareness and engagement.

3) Keep March Madness promotions simple.

It’s easy to be fascinated with the moving parts of a flashy campaign offering a big prize. But, take to heart that most people don’t want to navigate complicated rules to join in the fun.

Make it easy to participate, even for non-basketball fans. Crafting your own sales contest or tournament brackets can get complicated fast.

A simple coupon or themed gift card helps you score extra points in customers’ minds on the fence.

Want a quick gift idea? Offer prospects a way to catch the games through a subscription to a streaming service like YouTube TV ($65) or Sling ($35). Of college basketball streamers, Roku, Amazon Fire TV, and Apple TV are top devices people use to watch the games, according to PCMag.

4) Proceed with caution.

Refrain from using school logos or trademarks of the NCAA in your March Madness-themed promotions and giveaways. Steer clear of using anything on this official list of trademarks in your promotions.

March Madness Sales Ideas

Reward sales reps who can help make this quarter the best one yet. Give them tools to take advantage of the March Madness-themed competition.

1) Follow up after gifting outreach.

The tournament also has built-in reasons to follow up after sending a gift.

When a prospect’s favorite team makes the Final Four®, that’s a great reason for sales reps to follow up. Doing so can increase your gift acceptance rate. Our State of Gifting Report data showed that a reminder boosts your gift claim rate by 36%.

We also uncovered recipients exchange almost one-third of gifts for something else. Recipients love the power of choice. That might also mean giving prospects the option of skipping out on a gift and opting to send it to their favorite nonprofit instead.

If you don’t offer those options, you could be setting your marketing and sales dollars ablaze.

March Madness Sales Ideas to select gift from Alyce Marketplace

2) Host a sales team competition.

Set up a leaderboard to display top metrics and reward high-performing sales reps for instilling friendly competition. These stats can include closed-won revenue, the number of deals, and even prospecting attempts made.

You can host a tournament among similarly performing sales reps and teams as a March Madness sales angle. Rather than rushing out to buy a bunch of college basketball swag, give employees the option of picking out their incentives at the end of the month.

It’s also wise to reward veterans and rookies alike by acknowledging great teamwork, ensuring smooth handoffs between BDRs and AEs, and not sitting on the sidelines to move deals along.

And don’t keep it a secret. Get the team members outside of sales involved to cheer on and celebrate team wins.

3) Ask for customer referrals.

Check with existing customers rather than prospecting to people who haven’t heard of your brand. Why? They know their industry and their community. They can likely put you in touch with colleagues who are candidates for your solution.

Reach out to a past account you sold with a short template: “I want to check in and see how things are going.” Invite their honest feedback and respond if they need help. Avoid sending such a request to your entire email list. It should be focused and intimate by nature.

Then ask if they know of any other people or small businesses that would be a good fit for your service. Thank them with a relevant, personal gift for those who make an honest attempt or would be willing to be a reference.

Chart showing unique places where gifting creates momentum in the buyer's journey

Win more deals by being personal

Like companies are moving away from unsolicited outreach tactics for email marketing, you should adopt the same strategy in your sales and marketing ideas.

When conducting outreach centered around an event like March Madness, stay personal, listen to customers, give them the power of choice, and watch your sales metrics grow.

For more ideas around creating a campaign that resonates, check out our comprehensive guide to driving more conversions with gifting.

But please, for the love of all mascots, please skip the foam fingers.

March Madness®, The Big Dance®, and The Final Four® are registered trademarks of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).

March 18, 2022
Joe M.

Joe Manna is the content manager for Alyce who obsesses over the Oxford comma, embraces the em dash, and thrives on engaging and informative content. He's savvy with B2B marketing and has helped companies large and small serve more customers. His 5-to-9™ interests include visiting the beach, listening to podcasts, and being the best dad and husband he can be.