With the recent cancellation of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, better known as March Madness, due to coronavirus concerns, there are an estimated 60 million Americans (about 1-in-4 adults) missing out on their annual tradition of filling out a bracket.
But maybe they don’t have to. This may be an opportunity for your station to fill in that missing piece with your own bracket-style promotion.
And thanks to the Internet and social media, your listeners can participate with your station, as well as comparing their brackets with friends and family members in different locations.
While this note has a variety of different kinds of bracket-related ideas for you to consider, March Bandness remains the gold standard, pitting 64 bands against each other with on-air “games” where listeners vote to determine who moves on to the next round.
Here are some reasons we feel this may be an especially strong promotion this year:
- It fills in for something people are missing. Life has been upended for everyone and this is something familiar that might help things seem a little bit more normal during these difficult times.
- With people working or hanging out at home, it’s an extra level of engagement to pull listeners in to your programming when they have a wider than usual array of other options.
- March Bandness gives you another way to put the spotlight on your core artists.
- It’s a great opportunity to add entertaining sound and “theater” to the station, as your “tournament” mimics the feel, duration, and competitive nature of March Madness.
- The voting element can drive huge website traffic. Listeners love brackets, music, and sharing their opinions.
- It has great social elements. The right sort of posts about the games is a great way to appear in your listeners’ social feeds, which they may be monitoring more closely than usual due to what’s happening in the world.
- It’s fun and may provide a nice distraction from the stress people are facing in this uncertain time.
Below, a number of additional approaches to embracing the world of brackets. We have images and how-to notes available and would be happy to help you develop a promotion tailored to your station.
The March Bandness Pool:
Announce the seedings of your bracket a few days before you start and provide a mechanism where listeners can make predictions all the way to the “championship” round. The most correct answers win a grand prize. This creates an incentive to vote since listeners have made predictions and want their teams (bands) to win.
Additionally, have your jocks each fill one out and work to get local celebrities, musicians, and athletes to play along. Off the air, host an internal station pool with a prize. It’s a really fun morale builder.
Other Music Brackets:
Pitting bands against each other isn’t the only way to do this. Here are some other options to consider:
- Album Madness: This version works especially well for Classic Rock and Mainstream Rock stations. Conceptually it’s the same, except you seed 64 albums instead of artists, pitting one against another to eventually determine the greatest of all time.
- Build a Band: Each bracket has four quadrants with 16 entries. Dedicate one quadrant each to singers, guitarists, bass players, and drummers with single elimination games until you’ve built the ultimate rock band.
- Battle by Eras: If you’re more of a Mainstream Rock station covering a wide variety of eras, you could dedicate the quadrants to different decades like ‘70s, ‘80s, ‘90s, and 2000s.
You can also take a different route using the bracket model to stage a competition among categories unrelated to music. These tend to be more conducive for stations with a local morning show, as well as brands that are really trying to embrace hometown roots and the audience lifestyle.
- Best of Your City: Create a bracket where the four regions are the best pizza, burger, ice cream place, and diner (or whatever your city is known for). Take nominations from the audience to fill out the bracket, giving them an incentive to support their favorites and spread the word. This might be an especially timely way to at least maintain chatter about local businesses that are facing hard times or possibly closed due to the virus.
- Work from Home (WFH): Given the huge number of people now working at home, consider four brackets on how best to deal with the challenge, such as food, TV/movies, activities with the kids, and adult activities, for example.
- Things Guys Love: The Hog in Milwaukee constructed a bracket with four different regions that contain “64 Things Hog-Heads Love,” sports, gadgets, alcohol, and entertainment.
- The Tournament of Bad: WSCR in Chicago hosts the annual Tournament of Bad to determine the worst thing ever. This can be very topical and local. Last year included entries like Chicago Potholes, the poor quality of Thursday night NFL games, and sending “thoughts and prayers” via Facebook or Twitter.
- Use Your Imagination: Over the years, we’ve seen everything from best songs about drinking, favorite SNL cast members, comedians, best beards, and more. The beautiful part is that people love to give their opinions. Brackets provide a perfect framework.
Beyond the Brackets
As a reminder, even when it’s cancelled, the NCAA monitors media for violations of their trademarks and they own the trademarks for “March Madness,” “Final Four,” “Elite 8,” “Sweet Sixteen” and even the “Big Dance.” You’ll need alternate terms such as “March Bandness,” “Rockin’ 16, “Great 8,” and “Vinyl 4,” for example. As we always advise, check with your legal counsel to be sure.
It is also essential to work closely with the sales department because, while it’s a quick turnaround, there may be opportunities for local clients who are looking for something unique at this time to reap the benefits of your on-air promotions as well as the digital activity you generate. Even naming your brackets for four strong clients might be an effective way to connect advertiser with the promotion.
Again, many variations of this promotion can be a winner but this year is unique as your station may be the only place people can go for their fix of “bracketology.” If you have any questions and wish to brainstorm these concepts, let us know. We have many examples, resources and a lot of experience in putting these sorts of promotions together and are happy to help.