Basketball bracket scores $30K for AJC by selling 3 sponsorship tiers


The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, a member of Cox Enterprises, is a daily newspaper based in Georgia. The Mark Bradley Bracket Fiasco, the AJC's college basketball bracket, is entering its 29th year and is named after the paper's award-winning sportswriter. Mark initially kicked off the bracket competition in 1987 (before the brackets were digitized), and he tabulated all the user's handwritten brackets himself.

For this year's Bracket Fiasco, the AJC wanted to create a valuable sponsorship package that would allow it to generate more revenue and increase audience engagement. The staff created a plan based off suggestions straight from the Second Street Lab playbook, Your Guide to Basketball Promotions and Interactive Content.

Click here to listen to Jay Schultz of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution speak about the basketball bracket.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution team decided to integrate three sponsorship levels to maximize revenue opportunities. This would allow them to connect with more local advertisers like a local grocery store chain and a local college. The three tiers worked well because it allowed for advertisers of all sizes to participate.

At the top, the paper offered a Title Sponsor for a $20,000 investment and limited it to one business. The Title Sponsor was provided with heavy branding throughout the paper and on the website. In addition, the sponsor was given the opportunity to have multiple VIP Pickers.

The next tier was a 3-Point Sponsor, which was limited to two businesses for a $7,500 investment. This sponsorship tier also included in-print and online ads, as well as the chance to be a VIP Picker.

The third tier was the Free-Throw Sponsor offered to 16 advertisers at a lower investment of $1,200. These advertisers were offered to be a VIP Picker and also received some online and in-print branding opportunities.

Each sponsorship tier was given a number of VIP Pickers based on its investment. These VIP Pickers competed against other advertisers for an additional sponsorship opportunity. The business with the best bracket would receive additional ROP ads. So the higher the investment, the more VIP picks, and the more chances you had to win.

Not only did the AJC appreciate being able to leverage the ROP assets as an incentive for businesses to be a part of the sponsorship program, but VIP Pickers are also excellent at driving more engagement from users who keep checking in to compare their picks to others.

Promotion is key when it comes to running a successful bracket. The AJC ran a heavy digital marketing campaign including ads on its site and multiple postings across social media.

The Sunday before the tournament starts, Mark Bradley writes an article on his blog outlining his picks for this year's Bracket Fiasco, and crosslinks to the tournament sign-up page on The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's website.

On top of that, the AJC prints a double-truck in its sports section on the day the online bracket is launched, including a printed copy of the bracket.

When it was all over, the results were a slam dunk bringing in $30,000 in revenue for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

But beyond the revenue, the staff is even more excited for next year's bracket. They plan on increasing the amount of 3-Point sponsorship slots to encourage even more participation at a lower investment level. Not only will this bring more revenue, but the businesses at the lower sponsorship level can get a bigger reward by winning the VIP Picker contest.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is really looking forward to running a 3-in-1 bracket this coming year. One of the biggest drawbacks with the upfront contest is the limited time for marketing. With the 3-in-1, they're looking forward to being able to promote throughout the entire contest and leveraging this expanded branding opportunity for potential sponsors.

If you're looking for ideas to invigorate your basketball strategy this year, download a copy of the playbook, Your Guide to Basketball Promotions and Interactive Content. It's chock-full of ideas, case studies and best practices to help you drive more engagement and revenue than ever before.

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

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