Friday, March 16, 2012

Each year, mid-March as the hype of college football season and the magic of the Super Bowl slips from the memory of sports fans, one major sporting event rises to dominate all others- March Madness. In the months leading up to tournament tip-off, a dim buzz of sportscaster analysis and expert predictions grows to a roar of hype. This single event, in which 64 teams go head to head dominates sports news media. Millions of Americans fill out brackets and, guided by the input of hundreds of ‘experienced’ bracketologists, attempt to guess that magical combination of teams that will win their neighborhood, class, family, or dorm bracket pools. Months of scrutiny however, cannot save even the most avid sports fans from one thing: upsets. What basketball fan can forget George Mason’s Cinderella-esque run to the final four in 2006- a fury of a win streak no one could have predicted.

Since its creation in 1939, not a single person has predicted a bracket with 100% accuracy. This year, it may all change. AT&T has begun a campaign marketed through Facebook called “Brackets by Six-Year-Olds”. This Facebook application features video clips of a man dressed as a professional sports analyst asking six-year-olds for their game-by-game predictions. These children are neither statistics prodigies nor avid fans and as such, explain their choices based upon their favorite uniform colors or mascots. This brute force decision making style seems ridiculous and ineffective but is it? As we stand now, 15th seed Lehigh has beat the 2 seed Duke and 15th seed Norfolk State has beat the 2 seed Missouri. It is a reasonably safe idea to assume that not a single sports fan in the country has picked both of these upsets. But who knows? There very well may be a six year old that preferred Lehigh’s mascot- a hawk to that of Duke- a devil. This same six year old may have preferred Norfolk State’s green uniform to the white and black of Missouri. AT&T’s Brackets by Six-Year-Olds is an effective (and adorable) marketing scheme, but it also hits at an expose of the high level of over-analysis that plagues the sports industry today. Of course, AT&T marketing employees do not believe that six-year-olds’ impulse decision is in any way indicative of the quality of teams. However, targeting the ever present viewers’ remorse over refusing to choose that team ‘they had a special feeling about’ makes their marketing approach relatable, creative, and boldly effective.

- Winston Joe

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