NCAA March Madness: Storytelling at Its Best

March Madness

Every year, millions of sports fans settle down in their living rooms and tune into the CBS network and its affiliates to experience what is arguably the most exciting annual sporting event. The NCAA basketball tournament, March Madness as it is affectionately known, is college basketball’s end-of-year tournament where the winner is crowned champion. Why has March Madness become such an eagerly anticipated event? It’s simple, the storytelling.

The stories that are told during the NCAA tournament can turn even the most anti-sports person into an avid watcher. The games aren’t just about the points on the scoreboard. The most appealing aspects of March Madness are the tales of players taking their spare time to help children who are battling cancer or the little known team that pulled off an unlikely victory against the perennial powerhouse.

All of these stories lead to the creation of tons of content that evokes emotions and leads to engagement and sharing. These are two important goals in content marketing, and emotion is a powerful tool that you can use to get results. Has a friend ever sent you a link to something via an email or text and said something like this? “Hey, check this out. It’ll make you cry.” Inevitably, a tear slides down your cheek as you read and the next thing you know you are forwarding the message to another friend.

The March Madness Tearjerker Effect

Emotions are a powerful force. March Madness evokes many emotions and causes us to share content on a massive scale. Need proof. Look at the stats for this article on Bleacher Report about star Michigan State player Adreian Payne and the relationship he developed with Lacey Holsworth, an eight-year-old girl suffering from a rare childhood cancer.

  • 251.8k reads
  • 56.9k Facebook shares
  • 2.7k Tweets

Payne’s story resonates with many of us on at least a minimal level (some on a much greater level). At some point in your life, it’s likely that you or someone you know has had their life changed forever by cancer. The mention of the word evokes very strong emotions. Payne’s actions in taking Lacey under his wing, bringing her to games, and raising her spirits generated a message of hope for anyone who has been in this situation or known someone who has. This type of powerful content is why we love this wonderful time of year.

In addition to the tearjerker story, we have the story of Cinderella. Some refer to this as the David vs. Goliath factor. I think both are equally accurate.

The Cinderella Story: or How David Defeated Goliath

I’m sure most of you reading this are familiar with the story of poor Cinderella, whose horrible (wicked) step-sisters forced her to do all the household chores and she never got to have any fun. Spoiler alert! In the end, Cinderella beats the odds and marries the prince, while her wicked step-sisters wallow in self-pity. During March Madness, the term “Cinderella” gets tossed around in reference to the teams that are supposed to have no shot at winning, but end up upsetting the teams that are considered perennial powerhouses.

Mercer, a school in Macon, Georgia that had not been to the tournament since 1985, defeated Duke, a team that had been in the tournament 18 straight years and won 4 national championships. The Mercer Bears were the true Cinderella. They were David facing down Goliath with nothing more than a slingshot and a rock. Yet, they beat the odds and won the favor of the nation (sports fans anyway.)

The win spurred the creation of a number of articles, many of which shared the same success as the article about Adreian Payne mentioned above. One of the more interesting storylines that stemmed from the win was a bet between Roddy White, wide receiver for the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons, and a fan on Twitter.

White made a bet that if Mercer won, he would give the fan season tickets to the Falcons 2014 regular season games. When it turned out they did indeed win, White backed out and ended up giving away tickets to only one game. Opinions of the football player’s actions aside, the story went viral on Twitter, sparking long conversations and debates. Article after article appeared across the web.

The Mercer story and other similar ones play out across the web in the form of an abundance of pieces of content. From articles, to videos, to infographics, March Madness inspires some of the most dynamic content available every year. Tell us about some of your favorite March Madness moments and the content that was created because of them.

Anthony GaenzleDirector of Marketing

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