NCAA March Madness: Everybody Wins!


NCAA coaches rely heavily on data to build strategies for a March Madness run. They look for tendencies, weaknesses and anything to gain an edge. But even if a team doesn’t make it to the Final Four or win a title, its school still can emerge victorious in other ways. Let’s explore how.

Consider two universities that saw dramatic increases in website traffic during last year’s tournament: Butler and Baylor.

uvs bulter vs baylor

Of the 65 teams entering the tournament last March, Butler University and Baylor University saw the most month-over-month growth in traffic to their homepages, By April, Butler had quadrupled its unique visitors from February. Certainly, the Admissions department at Butler appreciated the team’s effort, with a 444 percent increase in homepage traffic.

If we go back one more year, to 2009, another relatively small private school, Siena, rode a similar wave into and through the NCAA tournament. Siena’s 2009 traffic is shown below.

uvs siena

Although Siena defeated only one team in the 2009 tournament, ultimately falling to Louisville, its site traffic still jumped 238% in March. A mere 80 minutes of play provided enough excitement to generate an unprecedented level of online interest.

The momentary lift for schools such as Baylor and Siena is more than just interesting, it represents opportunity. Perennial NCAA tourney teams would be wise to regard March Madness as an opportunity to reach future students as well as alumni donors. In fact, why not look for other seasonal trends that routinely bring increased traffic to college and university sites.

Now that the NCAA tournament has begun, which schools will realize the opportunity to capitalize on the March Madness trend? Will it be Brigham Young, led by the prolific scoring of Jimmer Fredette? Butler is already showing its underdog strength once again, after blowing past Pittsburgh, but will its site see the same gains this year?

For those of you filling out brackets, predicting winners is fun and could potentially put a few bucks in your pocket. For those in charge of running colleges and universities, however, this could be a huge opportunity to grow admissions and endowments. That would be a victory indeed.

About Aaron Smolick:
Aaron Smolick is the Senior Director of Marketing at Compete. Aaron spends his time at Compete building brand awareness and lead generations while managing the PR, the Kantar relationship and the day-to-day marketing efforts--he greases the wheels and connects the dots. Before Aaron joined the Compete team he ran the US division of the Samsung gaming division. He hopes to eventually climb the corporate ladder where the dots become larger.