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March Madness Delivers Big for Brands: Expect Ads, Apps, and Free Fried Pickles


The 2014 NCAA men's basketball tournament invites marketing campaigns in overdrive.

According to Kantar Media, the 2013 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament -- or March Madness, as it is affectionately known -- generated over $1.5 billion in TV ad revenue. Kantar has said that figure will easily be surpassed by this year's advertising sales. Below is a roundup of just some of the companies that will be launching heavy marketing campaigns during the tournament, which starts with the preliminary round on Tuesday, March 18.

Sports Personalities in Cameo Roles

Major advertisers will be taking advantage of the spike in basketball awareness that the Big Dance inspires, bringing well-known stars and commentators into commercials. Pizza Hut (NYSE:YUM) will premiere a commercial for its WingStreet brand of wings, featuring Scott Van Pelt, a popular anchor at ESPN (NYSE:DIS). Likewise, competitor Papa John's (NASDAQ:PZZA) will air a new ad featuring CBS (NYSE:CBS) Sports' Jim Nantz. And representing players, five-time NBA All-Star Chris Webber will lead a new commercial for Burger King's (NYSE:BKC) two-for-$5 mix-and-match deal.

The Big App for the Big Dance

The official NCAA March Madness Live app, co-sponsored by AT&T (NYSE:T), will stream 150+ hours of live content to users of Windows (NASDAQ:MSFT), Android (NASDAQ:GOOG), and iOS (NASDAQ:AAPL) smartphones and tablets, as well as Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) tablets (the app is free, but users will have to enter their television subscription credentials in order to stream full, live games). Also worth mentioning, the Final Four games will be played in Dallas' AT&T Stadium.

The Bud Light Hotel

For the past five years, mega beer company Anheuser Busch (NYSE:BUD) has rented out hotels in Super Bowl cities to offer consumers a full-on Budweiser-branded experience (for this year's Super Bowl, the company actually rented out a boat on the Hudson River). Now Budweiser is introducing the tradition to March Madness, rebranding the Aloft Hotel in Dallas for four days around the Final Four as the Bud Light Hotel. Besides promoting its beer constantly, the company has stacked the hotel with live concerts (with artists including Pitbull, Ke$ha, Nelly, Jack Ingram, and Dierks Bentley), celebrity players, and a slew of Bud Light-branded hospitality items (soap, pillow cases, etc.).

Concerts Every Day

There will be a three-day music festival in Dallas, co-hosted by AT&T, Coke (NYSE:KO) Zero, and Capital One (NYSE:COF). Bruce Springsteen will be a headliner, and other big acts include The Killers, Fun., and Tim McGraw.

Free Fried Pickles From Hooters

On March 20 and 21, Hooters will offer free fried pickles for anyone who downloads coupons from On March 27 and 28, the restaurant will offer customers 10 free wings when they buy 10, and have the right coupon. You can get those coupons here.

Minyanville's March Madness Challenge

We're doing a bit of Madness marketing ourselves, but it's for charity: Again this year we are hosting the Minyanville Bracket Challenge for some March Madness fun and to help kids. The winner will get a lifetime subscription to the MV product of his or her choice -- and sundry schwag -- while the "non-winners" will have the right (but not the obligation) to make a donation of their choice to The Ruby Peck Foundation.

To enter, click here. The group password is: minyans. You'll need a free account if you don't already have one. Those who participated last year can just log in and make picks.

The bracket must be filled out with your picks by by 11:00 a.m. ET on Thursday, March 20. Any questions? Let us know:

You can make your donations at any time you choose on the The Ruby Peck Foundation page.

Good luck, and may the Madness be ever in your favor.

Follow me on Twitter: @JoshWolonick and @Minyanville
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