Imagine an event so compelling, so intriguing, and so much fun that even a television network couldn’t screw it up.
The NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament begins this week and with it comes the great drama of a 64 team battle to determine what team is really the best in the nation.
Unlike college football, teams get to the championship contest by winning their games not through some complicated set of statistics.
Unlike professional sports, the tournament takes place at the same time every year without extended playoffs that seem to run into eternity.
Baseball, a summer sport, ends it season in freezing late fall temperatures. The N.B.A., a winter sport, in steamy June.
Unless one’s hometown team is in the final two of a championship series how long do they really expect fans to stick with these marathons? No wonder viewership continues to drop.
The concept of the “March Madness” basketball tournament is simple. Lose and go home. It doesn’t matter if you’re from a traditional power, such as Connecticut, Duke or North Carolina. It’s one and done.
Most of the 64 teams really do have a chance to get to the Final Four. That’s how in 2006 a “Cinderella” squad like George Mason, from a supposedly weaker mid-major conference, can knock off heavy favorites from Michigan State, North Carolina, Wichita State and Connecticut in a span of two weeks.
The widespread rooting interest across the nation spurs various forms of office pools, friendly wagering, and “bracketology”. This blogger would argue that the tournament’s first two days, when all 64 teams are in action, is really the top event of the year for sports television junkies. To its credit CBS has made the games easy to watch. Start times are staggered so viewers can be switched quickly to tightly contested matches nearing their conclusion. Few, if any, key moments are missed.
The marketing lesson here is that if something is highly successful please leave it alone. The tournament doesn’t need brand extensions, spin offs, reformatting, or “new and improved” ingredients. Unlike its brethren in professional sports, no need for more teams, longer playoffs, or more hype.
The NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament has a most appealing spot in American culture. Let us all go madly into the good night.