March Madness bracket-busting upsets are social media gold

April 1, 2016
2 min read

Sports enthusiast or not, it’s difficult not to get wrapped up in the March Madness frenzy. The tournament tipped off March 17-18 with over 1 million mentions and the first round of upsets, according to data from social media monitoring and analytics firm Infegy. Most notably No. 15 seed Middle Tennessee ousting No. 2 seed Michigan State, breaking hearts (and brackets) everywhere. The No. 2 seeded Spartans were the second-most popular pick to win the national title this year, according to Yahoo! Sports.

Changes in online sentiment can be quickly mapped to game outcomes; “upset” is a breakout topic and spurs 28% average negative sentiment. March Madness thrives on the likelihood of the unlikely – let’s just say you have better odds of winning the Powerball jackpot than picking a perfect bracket. It is after all, the surprising upsets that drive mainstream appeal. Everyone loves a Cinderella story, and March Madness is no exception.

Fans aren’t just live-tweeting; they’re live-streaming more than ever. NCAA March Madness Live, managed by Turner Sports, set all-time records with 80.7 million live video streams in 2015, up 17% over the previous year. Social media platforms are also capitalizing on tournament buzz, with 18 of the 64 teams competing in this year’s tournament broadcasting games on Facebook Live. Snapchat will feature 14 Live Stories throughout the March Madness tournament.

Brands have been quick to jump in on the action. In its third year as an NCAA corporate partner, Allstate is running its annual March Mayhem campaign. Over the last month, #MarchMayhem generated over 12K mentions and spurs favorable sentiment at 86% average positive sentiment. Kia Motors asked fans what car amenities matter most to them with its #MarchMatchups campaign, and LG Electronics jumped in existing conversations, with witty #LGGameDay responses to March Madness tweets from @Allstate to @POTUS. #LGGameDay mentions boast 100% average positive sentiment, proving the best defense is a good offense and relevance always wins.

As for us, we take solace knowing our office pools are low stakes. As Final Four approaches one thing is for sure, March Madness updates are only a click, tweet, or snap away.

Jeannette Ornelas is a Social Media Analyst at Mintel, responsible for researching and writing social media reports. Prior to joining Mintel, Jeannette worked at a social media agency conducting social media audits, delivering ongoing brand insights and creating monthly reports.

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