The NCAA March Madness tournament is one of the most inclusive playoff events in all of sport, giving a full 68 teams a chance to battle it out for the ultimate prize. The sheer number of games leads to some of the most exciting moments in sports, and also results in intense competition among the marketers involved in the tournament.

While 68 teams sounds like a lot, that number pales in comparison to the number of advertisers competing during the commercial breaks. Since 2012, roughly 90 unique advertisers each year have collectively spent over a billion dollars annually to reach some of the most engaged fans in all of sport.  This volume leads to a significant amount of clutter, with brands clashing to break through to fans.

One of these brands, Captial One, made the decision to produce and run contextual creative (advertising that ties the brand with the sport). Their “Road to the Final Four” campaign featuring Charles Barkley, was extremely successful – a Turnkey advertising analysis of the most active NCAA advertisers uncovered that the contextual nature of “Road to the Final Four” strongly connected with fans, making it highly impactful and producing some of the strongest Likability and Connection scores we have seen among fans across all sports (both metrics are key drivers of ad effectiveness).

Capital One’s commitment to contextual creative and tapping into fan passions has helped contribute to its consistent strength in SportsBusiness Journal’s annual NCAA Sponsor Loyalty Study (also conducted by Turnkey Intelligence).  Over the last few years, Capital One has repeatedly ranked as one of the top brands in Sponsor Awareness, a metric closely connected to Consideration among fans.

While producing contextual creative may be a difficult decision for brands amidst tightening budgets and a fragmented media landscape, it continues to prove impactful in helping brands break through and connect with fans in a meaningful way.