Making the Most of March College Basketball With a Truly Integrated Campaign

March 19, 2019

The NCAA’s college men’s basketball tournament dominates media channels – and fans’ attention – for three weeks each spring. Every marketer wants those eyes and ears on their products and services, but only a few can afford to sponsor or advertise during the games.

Still, many companies try to hitch onto the excitement with promotions linked to the event – with varying results. One specialty grocery brand found that by getting creative with its media spend and targeting customers with a truly integrated multichannel campaign, it could be one of the winners.

Up to this point, the retailer had had mixed success making sure all channels worked together optimally to reach customers. Store traffic in some regions had declined, which slowed sales and loyalty program enrollment.

The chain’s marketing team thought the answer was to spend ad dollars better. Quad was printing 1.5 million weekly inserts for the chain and the chain’s executives wanted recommendations on how to improve their media buy.

We understood they needed to do more than just move ad dollars around. To drive store traffic, customer loyalty and sales, they needed an entirely new marketing strategy. We proposed a “Stock Up and Score” college basketball promotion that had four goals and involved multiple steps.

Goal: optimize media spend

  • Review current media plan and budget
  • Analyze print circular distribution, looking for both efficiencies (rate negotiations and circulation optimization) and effectiveness (store sales by contributing zip codes)
  • Find savings – ultimately 25 percent of the total spend — that could be re-purposed into other channels

Goal: get a better fix on the customer

  • Learn more about shopping patterns at the chain’s stores
  • Review demographic, psychographic and media consumption data for target shoppers
  • Conduct a competitive analysis of similar businesses
  • Look at underperforming stores and markets – weekly customer counts and sales, average basket size and loyalty engagement
  • Examine foot traffic both around and in the store by day and time

Goal: surround customers with brand touchpoints

  • Use this information to develop a multichannel marketing program that present customers with multiple opportunities to interact with the brand where and when they wanted
  • Get a quick read on effectiveness by focusing the promotion on four products: baby back ribs, avocados, beer and the chain’s fresh store-made pizza in several under-performing stores during a big tournament weekend
  • Build and manage hyper-local mobile promo hubs for each pilot store
  • Integrate offline with digital and online media:
    • Pair mobile promotions with print circulars, direct mail postcards, in-store signage, and geo-targeted social and programmatic digital advertising
    • Amplify this pairing by connecting shoppers to the promotion hubs with mobile response vehicles such as QR codes in print media
  • Leverage owned media (direct mail, in-store, website) along with social posts on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest pages

Goal: personalize, personalize and personalize

  • Use beacon technology that tracks cell phone signals and communicates with mobile devices to capture shopper foot traffic data
  • Measure what phones were entering the store and when, which were new customers and what areas people shopped in the store
  • Capture where shoppers went when they left the store which, with data from the hyper-local paid social and programmatic media, pointed to traffic sources around the store
  • Use this information to target direct mail and retail inserts to those neighborhoods

The more relevant personalization is, the more successful. In fact, useful and targeted communications create lasting customer loyalty and drive revenue growth of 10 to 30 percent, according to a recent McKinsey & Company report. In this case, having detailed customer data by store made it easy to respond to shoppers’ interests with localized, personalized offers on both mobile devices and offline media.

The promotion delivered immediate results.


Over the initial Friday through Sunday promotional period, the pilot stores experienced:

  • 10 percent increase in new-customer traffic
  • 10 percent sales increase
  • 18 percent conversion increase
  • A more than 200 percent increase over goal in loyalty enrollments.

And, the retailer actually ran out of its house-made pizza in the test stores.

So I guess you could say that, by putting all their avocados in a multichannel marketing basket, the grocery chain was able to connect with consumers in ways it hadn’t been before, nimbly and at a lower cost. When change is a constant and consumers are increasingly in charge, nothing is more important.