March (M)Adness

So far this year, the 2019 NCAA March Madness basketball tournament has gone pretty close to plan, with the higher seeds winning when they should. The only exception has been the annual tradition of at least one 12 seed beating a 5 seed. And in this year’s case, three of the 12 seeds have beat the 5 seeds, and the fourth lost by just 1 point. So close to a clean sweep by the 12 seeds! There have also been some very close calls (Duke vs. UCF!), but that is all they were, close calls. The higher seeds have won all of those close calls. But the excitement of the Cinderella, the giant killers, the game-winning shots by lower seeds just isn’t quite there this year. I guess that means the selection committee got it right this year? Nonetheless, we are drawn to continue watching because we want to be entertained! We want to witness that thrill of an upset or the exhilaration of a game winner. But alas, the first 2 rounds did not deliver on any of that excitement.

So in lieu of the thrilling upsets, we here at Yalo have been paying attention to the promos and commercials. March Madness is kind of like 3 weeks of Super Bowl ads because it is a great place for brands and advertisers to make an impact on a very large number of eyeballs. Because so many people watch the tournament, the stakes are high for brands to perform well by getting noticed and leaving a lasting impression.

Here are some interesting things we found worth noting for their out-of-the-box thinking or their original thinking:


TBS did a Drop the Mic promo where they actually dropped a mic on to the floor with the players in the background during a timeout of the game. It was unique because it was done live and because it was done from a low angle showing all the players waiting for a foul shot. Pretty interesting and out of the box to do it live.


By now, we are all familiar with the AT&T ‘Just ok is not ok’ commercials that began a few weeks ago. The whole series of them are fantastic and really smart. But one of our favorites is this one about the brakes and the ‘ok’ mechanic.

However, AT&T rolled out a new series of these commercials just for March Madness with a consistent character, Phil. The first one to air was this one “Phil the player.” AT&T continues to push the edge with this campaign for ‘ok is no ok’.

Northwest Mutual

You may have noticed this commercial where a man mowing his lawn is interrupted by the daughter to get a ride to her friends. It’s a Northwest Mutual ad called “Backyard Bliss”. It’s memorable for 2 reasons. 1) Its Flo-rida “My House” theme song! 2) The girl’s reaction when her dad hesitates to take her, classic teenager reaction ‘uuuuuuh’. BUT for March Madness, there was an interesting and nuanced twist to the commercial.  Rather than the ‘uuuuuuh’, the teenager returns to looking at her phone and dancing, still a classic teenager reaction, but one that is more fun, more family friendly. The man still installs the pool and the ad continues to jam more Flo-rida. Here is the new version. Do you think the change was driven by user feedback/testing? Possibly. But memorable either way.

Capital One

If you watch March Madness every year like I do, you would have seen the series Capital One does every year that includes Charles Barkley, Samuel L. Jackson and Spike Lee. They are funny, heady, and self-deprecating. That’s what makes them authentic. This year’s series includes a couple of good ones. One is where Charles has a bird on his shoulder that he has named Larry Bird only to be one upped by the actual Larry Bird walking up with a dog he has named Charles “Bark”ley. However, the best one is where the introduce the Chuck-xedo and being invited to the “Big Nantz” (vs Dance). Clever and witty, showcasing a self-deprecating Charles Barkley makes it authentic.

We hope you enjoyed those examples as much as we did. Best of luck on your brackets!

Oh, and if you want to know how well my brackets look after the first 2 rounds, my situation can be summed up quite simply by saying that my 11-year-old daughter is thoroughly sticking it to me. She outscored me in round 1 and in round 2, and now sits well ahead of me in our poll. Oh well, there is always next year!

#theyreplayingbasketball #bracketlife

And, if you’re looking for ideas on how to be more bold and entertaining in your marketing and communications efforts, check out these other posts:

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