How plugging in to a major cultural moment like March Madness can give your marketing a boost by association

Photo c/o JC Gellidon on Unsplash
by Melissa McNutt / Originally published on Linkedin


You don’t need to spend millions of dollars on a primetime commercial to reap the benefits of a major cultural moment like the NCAA basketball tournament starting later this week. Looping into a current event is always smart when done correctly because there is a built-in fan base and if they overlap with your consumers, it can be a slam dunk (see what I did there).

How to make piggybacking on to a cultural moment work for your brand:

Don’t be basic: You can’t force something to go viral but you can trust that marketing campaigns that have an air of randomness assuredly had a lot of thinking and planning go into it ahead of time. Develop a unique concept and have a little fun with the methods used to reach your audience. Creativity is the calling card of successful brands who use a combination of cultural moments and a clear marketing message to cleverly reach fans in a memorable way.

Embrace the experience: Don’t be too cool to be a part of the big show, in fact that’s why we’re all here. Let’s take a humble step back and enter the scene with our eyes wide open as to where our efforts fit into the larger picture. If you’re running a consumer experience in conjunction with a larger property, you have to take certain event elements into consideration while programming your content. Try working with a variety of influencers that enjoy the event/festival you’re hosting them at, but who also speak across multiple channels (sports, fashion, lifestyle) to tie the conversation back to your brand organically.

You can’t fake it: This is my favorite piece of marketing (and life) advice: you can’t force a relationship. If your consumer just isn’t that into you, your inability to translate what events and cultural moments they’re interested in has the potential to damage your brand rather than bolster it. Work backward when considering the property you’re attaching yourself to, then think about how you fit into the conversation and if this partnership is relevant to your consumer before even starting to pursue it.

If you’re looking for an IRL example, I’ve recently seen multiple brands (I won’t call you out) attaching themselves to International Women’s Day when they don’t do anything to promote women the rest of the year. Don’t be that brand. It’s not a cute look, so be sure to think about the conversation you’re starting and ask if it’s authentic or if you come off like a poser.

These are all reasons why a genuine approach to developing experiences by piggybacking on a major cultural moment like March Madness is a great way to enhance the reach of your brand. Social, influencer campaign, experiential activation; the possibilities are endless when considering how to utilize a cultural moment for your brand’s benefit so get creative and work smarter to make it happen.


Melissa McNutt is a Co-Founder and Head of Strategy at One Two Collective, a consultancy that helps brands enhance their consumer experience. Prior to that, she was Head of Brand Experience at mixed reality startup Magic Leap and Head of Experiential at Samsung.