Every month at Taykey we dig into our massive trove of online conversation data to understand more about leading trends and their implications.
In March, we saw that March Madness lived up to it’s name, driving the highest amount of conversation over the past month. The tournament, constantly created new headlines and new topics for people to discuss. Other top trends of the month touched on more unexpected territory, ranging from The Pope to Teletubbies.
March Madness Lives Up to The Hype
Millennials drove the March Madness conversation online with 18-34 year olds making up the majority of this fan base. Unlike past years, this audience was less male dominated with only 60% men and 40% women engaging with National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) content online. The rise in social media participation surrounding the event could explain why more and more women are engaging with March Madness content.
Overall sentiment surrounding the NCAA tournament has decreased this year with only 45% positive sentiment. In 2016, the tournament was 55% positive overall. Presumably, this decrease is a result of the 4 major upsets that occurred leading up to the Sweet Sixteen, including favorites such as Duke and Villanova.
Exploring the top media brands of March Madness
Arguably the two biggest media brands associated with NCAA content are ESPN and CBS Sports. So which audiences do these sites engage and how positively are they viewed among tournament followers?
Over 50% of people interacting with ESPN’s March Madness content are millennials and nearly 80% male. Sentiment surrounding ESPN during the tournament was 60% positive, indicating the brand’s success at positively engaging this key millennial March Madness audience.
CBS Sports Audience
The CBS Sports audience skewed older, with 25 to 34, 45 to 54, and 65 plus making up over 60% of its online engagement. Interestingly, this audience has a 93% higher engagement women talking about its coverage than ESPN. The brand’s content is discussed only 39% positively versus ESPN’s 60% positivity.
Which March Madness Sponsor is Winning the Branding Competition?
After the Super Bowl, March Madness is the next biggest sporting event for advertising. This year we saw a particularly strong increase in conversation about the tournament’s brand advertisers with Wendy’s and Pizza Hut coming out on top thanks to creative promotions surrounding the event.
Wendy’s Free Burger Promotion
Wendy’s offered free cheeseburgers at select stores that fell along the tournament routes. This generated a 28x spike in conversation volume for the brand, making it the most talked about advertiser during March Madness. While this promotion helped the brand become top of mind among fans, sentiment for the brand dropped to 73% negative.
Interestingly, sentiment dropped on March 12th which was when Wendy’s launched its social media campaign around the NCAA. Although Wendy’s outperformed Pizza Hut by 20% in overall conversation volume, Pizza Hut’s positive sentiment was 95% greater than Wendy’s.
Pizza Hut’s Basketball Smart Shoes
Pizza Hut released a pair of smart basketball shoes that could order a pizza with a click of a button. This was the second most talked about brand during the tournament, generating a 22x increase in volume, and a significant lift in positive sentiment. With the combination of volume and sentiment, Pizza Hut’s shoe promotion was the biggest overall branding success during this year’s March Madness tournament.
Top five unexpected video trends that went viral
While March Madness was this month’s undisputed top conversation driver, there were a several unexpected trends that caught our eye. In particular, we noted several trends leading the pack, all driven by popular viral videos. Here are the top five unexpected trends that drove significant conversation volume in March.
The Pope's Hat
Teletubbies feat. Missy Elliot
Ed Sheeran controversy
Enthusiastic hockey dog
Amit Avner is chief executive and founder of Taykey, a real-time audience data company