With football season well and truly over, sports junkies are turning to March Madness to quench their competitive thirst.  While it may not be the most-watched sports programming of the year, the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship games draw a respectable viewership – one that is spending more and more time following the games online.

While almost all fans (96%) watch at least some of the games on a good old-fashioned flat screen, 42% also check in on mobile and 35% participate in the March Madness conversation through social media.  The result is an expected 7.3 million fans following on their computers, 3.8 million on smartphones, and 2.5 million on tablets.  That is a lot of digital media – and a lot of opportunity if brands know how to take advantage of it.

Even if you don’t have the $30 million plus budget of big names like Buick ($53.5 million), Capital One ($37.1 million), Southwest ($33.5 million), or Samsung ($30.3 million), March Madness can be a great way to take advantage of a captive audience.  Jump into the conversation on Twitter and increase brand awareness, offer some March Madness incentives to drum up new business, or launch a March Madness-themed Facebook campaign.  Local businesses around contending colleges have a ton of opportunity to show their colors and build brand trust and loyalty.  

Get creative around March Madness.  As this infographic from Koeppel Direct shows, it’s big business both online and off.

March Madness Marketing Stats & Viewership Trends