9 tips for planning, selling & promoting basketball promotions


Matt Coen

The college basketball tournament only comes once a year and doesn't last long, but it generates TONS of excitement! In the U.S., there are 14.3 MILLION working people who consider themselves to be avid basketball fans.

This means that the opportunity – and variety – of college basketball promotions is tremendous. Last year, WEEI-FM made $25,000 with a basketball promotion incorporating a tournament bracket, a custom bracket and a sweepstakes!

To learn best practices and discover tips for planning and selling basketball promotions, as well as find inspiration in past success stories, read on for our top nine tips.

To make it easier for you to find exactly what you need, we have divided the takeaways into three sections:

  • Tips for planning.
  • Tips for selling.
  • Tips for promoting.


1. Run both an upfront bracket AND a round-by-round bracket. An upfront bracket is the traditional style where players make all of their picks before the first game is played. A round-by-round bracket is one where players make their picks at the beginning of each round. If you want to maximize your site traffic and audience engagement, it's a good idea to run both. Upfront brackets are classic, but they are easily busted – complementing one with a round-by-round bracket will ensure that players keep coming back week after week.

2. Extend bracket mania. In addition to your upfront and round-by-round tournament brackets, round out your basketball promotions with a custom bracket and a sweepstakes. Custom brackets have the potential to reach an audience that may not be interested in a tournament bracket, and sweepstakes are a great way to build up your email database before the big promotion. In 2013, WEEI-FM worked with a local pizza place to create a pizza topping bracket and a free-pizza-for-a-year sweepstakes to run alongside their tournament bracket.

3. Avoid trademarked phrases in your marketing. Trademarked words and phrases are more common than you might expect! Steer clear of the massive legal headache that trademark infringement can cause by avoiding phrases like "March Madness," "March Mayhem," and "Elite 8" in your promotions branding.

4. Offer quality local prizes. The better your prizes, the more entries you will receive. In addition to requesting that your sponsors contribute valuable round-by-round or overall grand prizes as part of their sponsorship agreement, identify prize partners who would be willing to contribute prizes in exchange for inclusion in advertising and an opportunity to be a VIP picker.


1. Target the right advertisers. The audience for college basketball is diverse, so a number of advertisers in your market would be a good fit for a bracket sponsorship. Start with sports bars, alcohol distributors and car dealerships, but if you're looking for more ideas, check out this list of 33 advertisers to target for basketball promotions.

2. Sell the benefits. When you're talking to advertisers about your college basketball promotions, be sure to emphasize all of the benefits they will receive if they participate. Here are a few you should definitely touch on:

o    Sponsors have the opportunity to drive foot traffic by including a coupon or special offer in ads or emails.

o    Your basketball initiative is a multi-platform promotion, so sponsors will have the opportunity to reach an audience online, in traditional media, on social media, and on mobile devices.

o    Sponsors can grow their email databases by including an opt-in on the registration page of your basketball promotions.

o    Sponsors can grow Likes for their Facebook Pages by including a Like box on the registration page of your promotions or by running an agency-model sweepstakes on their Page, like Papa Gino's did with WEEI-FM.

o    You are a local media company, so sponsors will reach a local audience.

o    Players will be actively engaged with the promotion, so sponsors can more efficiently drive brand awareness.

3. Create an integrated sales package. Be sure to emphasize the strengths of your print media as well as your digital offerings. Scale the dollar amounts listed up or down depending on your market size, and remember that all of your sponsors should also be contributing a prize!


Here are a few tips for successfully promoting your basketball contest.

1. Recognize the power of email. Digital messages are the most effective at driving digital conversions, so the day you send the email is the day you are going to see the majority of entries and registrations.

2. Leverage all of your resources. You should be promoting your basketball promotions everywhere you can think of, including with all of the following elements: email, online ads, mobile ads, Facebook posts and cover photos, and tweets.

As a newspaper, you should also employ the Marty Carry model for sports promotions, which emphasizes all of the following:

  • Secure multiple sponsors.
  • Give your sponsors the VIP treatment.
  • Integrate print and online promotion.
  • Promote the contest heavily.
  • Engage your sales staff with incentives.

Matt Coen is the president and co-founder of Second Street, a leading provider of private-label online promotions platforms and partner success services for media companies based in St. Louis, Mo. He can be reached at (314) 880-4902 or matt@secondstreet.com.

Coen, Second Street, promotions
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