How AT&T Is Owning March Madness on Twitter

Partnership with NCAA, Turner puts brand constantly in the game

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Many brands—Capital One, Dove Men's Care, Nike and Buick, to name a few—were at the ready last weekend for March Madness, purchasing Promoted Tweets in real time around the ups and downs of numerous college basketball games. But no company got in the game like AT&T, which, as part of a much larger sponsorship deal with the NCAA and Turner Broadcasting, continuously bought ads for tweets going out from @MarchMadness, NCAA's handle for the tourney.

For example, the telecom giant ran a rash of Promoted Tweets around Florida Gulf Coast's memorable and improbable two-game run to the Sweet 16 round. Turner's social media team tweeted about key moments from the games using the @MarchMadness handle, which AT&T then pushed out as a Promoted Tweet.

Here's one of the best examples of how the brand and its partners are providing a real-time reporting service to Twitter users:

AT&T is also sponsoring photography from the tournament at while pushing out selected "NCAA Courtside" pics via Twitter.

Call it real-time marketing. Call it newsrooming. Call it second-screening to couch potatoes. AT&T—which, including help from BBDO, benefits from the manpower of 15 social media staffers during March Madness—just calls it important.

"We want to provide behind-the-scenes content so people from their living rooms on their couches can be a part of the on-site game experience," said Blair Klein, social, digital and emerging communications lead at AT&T. "Engaging fans around the things they are passionate about helps live our core values—connecting with customers and allowing them to engage with each other and the brand. This [Twitter-based] program reflects that, as well as the speed of conversation. It ties in with our 'fastest 4G LTE network' copy."

AT&T's Promoted Trend ads during March Madness—which come with a hefty $120,000 daily price tag—demonstrate how Twitter marketing has become closely linked to television viewing. On March 22, AT&T pushed "NickyFlash," a reference to one of its more popular "It's Not Complicated" broadcast spots; two days later, its Promoted Trend copy was "ItsNotComplicated."

Klein says of the ad buys during last weekend's busy NCAA slate: "There's the greatest number of games, exciting action and Twitter volume going on during that time. Certainly having a Promoted Trend rather than just Promoted Tweets helps us rise above the other noise."

When March Madness resumes this evening, Klein and her team will be sticking with their Promoted Tweet game plan. Klein conceded that putting brand marketing dollars behind the @MarchMadness handle—which, again, is owned by the NCAA—is a fairly unusual tactic.

"This is new territory," she said. "It's been interesting for engagement rates and net followers. We've been really pleased. We've seen an uptick in engagement and number of followers."

@Chris_Heine Christopher Heine is a New York-based editor and writer.
Publish date: March 28, 2013 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT