Getting potential customers out of their La-Z-Boys and into restaurants and bars is the goal of over-the-top promotions for the upcoming NCAA basketball tournament. The final game of March Madness takes place on April 2, giving operators several weeks to lure sports fans with specials and wild promotions. Here’s a look at some of the creative March Madness marketing plays for 2018.
1. Shoes that pause the game
Pizza Hut’s Pie Tops high-top shoes return for a second March Madness season—with an added feature. The shoes still allow the wearer to order a pizza via Bluetooth. But this time, a button inside the shoe’s tongue can pause live TV. Pizza Hut will be selling 50 pairs of the high-tech shoes later this month.
2. Off-premise packages
Corky’s BBQ, a Memphis, Tenn.-based chain, added a roster of large-format packages available for pickup on game days. The Go Pig or Go Home Game Day offerings include a pork butt package that feeds 12 with baked beans, coleslaw, sauce and buns; 64-piece chicken tenders; and 48-piece catfish nuggets.
3. App-based rewards
The March Basketball Fanatics Challenge at Capriotti’s Sandwich Shop uses visits recorded through the chain’s app to encourage repeat business. Customers who reach their visit goal can earn a free sandwich. The company is also running discounts in March for first-time online orders, catering and more.
4. Social media face-off
A Denver wood-fired pizza restaurant has teamed up with local social media influencers and bloggers for a Pizza Wars bracket series this month. Chef-owner Frank Bonanno of Luca will work with a different social media star each week to make their “dream pizza” on Facebook Live. The pizzas will be served at the restaurant each Wednesday through Sunday, with sales tallied for each. The blogger with the best-selling pizza will win free pies for a year at Luca.
5. Over-the-top game food
Chicago dart bar Point & Feather will be offering an extra-indulgent Tournament Tower of bar food for March Madness. The $50 tower includes a layer with fries, fried chicken sliders and burger sliders; a second layer with onion rings, chicken wings and calamari; and a top layer of nachos. Sauces include blue cheese, ranch, cocktail sauce, ketchup and fry sauce. If a single diner finishes the tower in 20 minutes, it’s free.
6. A pasta-filled twist on the Final Four
Sister concepts in Brooklyn, N.Y., and Miami Beach, Fla., will host a MacMadness pasta competition. The chef of the Saint Austere and Macchialina will menu two new pasta dishes each week of the tournament. The pasta that racks up the most orders will advance to the next week. And the most ordered dish overall will earn a permanent spot on the menus at both restaurants.
7. Ultra-luxe March Madness
The Shot Caller Package at the Old Homestead Clubhouse, located inside the Montecristo Cigar Bar at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, is offering up a super-swanky March Madness experience. For $10,000, buyers can get a team jersey of their choice, a box of Montecristo cigars, a bottle of whiskey, a bottle of vodka, mixers, beer and wine, a three-course steak dinner, a seafood tower and a gift bag. The “deal” is for up to 10 people.