March Madness is just two weeks away. Every year, we get emails asking for the schedule in advance and every year we have to remind people, except for Thursday and Friday of the first weekend, it doesn’t matter what time, but who is playing that drives the traffic.
That being said the link below will take you to last year’s schedule, so you can see what the likely time schedules will look like. All times are Eastern.
Hype vs. reality
While I love the atmosphere the tournament creates, it’s much more hype than reality. Starting with Play-In games on Tue/Wed Mar 16-17 the hype begins, but the games are between 16th and 11th seeds, and they typically don’t drive traffic as much as they are a passing interest for guests.
It’s really Thu/Fri (March 18-19) when the hype becomes reality. From the first tip off at 12:15pm EST until the final buzzer around 12am EST, your joint should be a buzz of energy and excitement. All 64 teams in the main field have a shot to win it all, and every fan is convinced their team is going all the way.
That gives way to the first Sat/Sun (March 20-21), where again there are games all day. However there are only two matches scheduled during the afternoon. Most of the games don’t begin until 5pm EST and finish before 11:30pm EST. That’s where the real energy ends for the tournament, sort of….
If you have a local school or a fan club in your place for a team that makes it to the second weekend, then you can expect a major boost in foot traffic from that game. Otherwise with all the Sweet Sixteen games on from 7pm EST to midnight on Thu/Fri March 25-26, there isn’t the added midday/afternoon traffic from the tournament.
Also, if you have no local interest, you’ll barely notice the tournament is even being played. Guests will expect it on the TVs, but they won’t come just to watch unless they have team in the field.
Are you marketing March Madness to your guests?
That’s why you need to promote an alternative way to get people to visit during the tournament. My favorite is a Survivor’s Pool. It’s a simple tournament where each day a guest picks a winner, but they can’t pick the same team twice. We put up $500 in cash that goes to the pool's winner, and charged guests a $10 donation to enter that we donated our favorite charity.
The key is that they have to visit your establishment to win. Games like that drive traffic, is a great fundraiser and will keep folks who might have already been looking towards opening day for baseball interested in the tournament.
All things considered, it’s better to have March Madness on your screens than not, but the reality is just not what we have been conditioned to believe from the hype. It is, however, a couple of extra busy lunches over the first weekend and something to talk about all month with guests.
So have fun and go, “(fill in your favorite team)”.