There was a time when March Madness was just about basketball. That time is Gone.

By Nicole Fletcher

I read this post and really enjoyed it especially after posting about this year’s Social Super Bowl and its #fail regarding its lofty, social expectations. The NCAA and it’s sponsors have really stepped up the plate it seems and here’s a post from USA Today to give you the low down. Feel free to tweet at us and tell us what you think about it!

There was a time when March Madness was just about basketball.
But with social media as a tool, some of the nation’s savviest marketers are turning the college basketball’s championship tournament into something more akin to an online hoops party for lovers of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. People can tap on their laptops or mobile phones and play along with all kinds of games and contests and, yes, even watch the games.

The 64 teams picked Sunday will play for the title in the National Collegiate Athletic Association basketball tournament over the next few weeks. For marketers from Coca-Cola to Papa John’s, it’s a social-media marketing event, a chance to coax consumers to play with their brands.

“It’s the ultimate sporting event for social media,” says Jason Kint, general manager at In addition to TV coverage, every game can be watched free online. For $9.99, you can watch the games on your iPhone.

But folks aren’t just watching. They’re chatting. Five of the 10 busiest “peak” minutes of Internet traffic ever were linked to the NCAA tournament, says Akamai, a Web technology firm.

Marketers are trying to be part of that chat with:

•Involvement. Coke Zero is sponsoring a Department of Fannovation Brain Bracket asking fans to vote online for the best idea to improve the tournament. “We’re empowering fans to shake up the status quo in college basketball,” says Linda Cronin, director of interactive media.

•Phone apps. MillerCoors launched an iPhone app, Tip ‘n Spin, in which folks earn points by balancing a basketball on a Miller Lite bottle. “Marketers struggled in the past for a forum for daily interaction with consumers,” says Mike Davitt, Miller Lite marketing chief. Social media offer that forum.

Contests. Applebee’s is offering $1 million to whomever picks the winners of all 63 tourney games via its Facebook page with Twitter updates.

Sweepstakes. Papa John’s Papa’s in the House Hoops Sweepstakes on Facebook let fans pick the prize: a $2,000 shopping spree and pizza for a year, says Jim Ensign, digital marketing chief.

•Sex appeal. Captain Morgan rum is asking fans to pick their favorite Morganette (women who tout the brand at bars) on Facebook to win a free trip to Las Vegas. “This is how our target customer lives his life,” says Tom Herbst, marketing chief. “He chats, e-mails and watches TV on his computer. It’s where he communicates.”