Shopper Profiles Blog Tile v2.png

Rakuten Marketing Blog

5 Things March Madness Teaches Us About Affiliate Marketing

Posted on Fri, Mar 17, 2017 @ 13:03 PM by Daniel James

What can the NCAA March Madness Tournament teach us about affiliate marketing? Turns out, quite a lot!

Madness in March: 5 Things March Madness Teaches Us About Affiliate Marketing

March is all about upsets, buzzer beaters, having your bracket short, March is all about Madness! 

The NCAA Basketball Tournament is the premier sporting event in America after the Super Bowl, with games constantly being played and people trying to create the perfect bracket. Every year fans and casual observers tune in to see who the underdogs of the tournament are, if Duke will win it all (again), and who will cut down the nets during One Shining Moment

But March Madness can also teach us a lot about affiliate marketing. How? Read on to find out what it means to be successful in the NCAA Tournament and affiliate marketing!

1. A Well-Rounded Team Will Get You Far

Succeeding in basketball is not an easy feat, and it all starts with the team roster. A well-rounded roster comprised of depth and talent across the five positions in basketball is a basic model for success, and affiliate marketing is no different. Succeeding in affiliate marketing means making strategic partnerships with several different publisher models if you’re an advertiser, or finding the right kinds of advertisers to work with if you’re a publisher. Building an affiliate program is a lot like recruiting and building a successful team – it takes an understanding of who your customers are, where they’re looking, and how they’ll interact with your brand at different points during the path to purchase.

2. Winners Rely on More Than Leading Scorers

Scoring is how you win games in basketball, but success is dependent on so much more than “which player scored the most points?” You must look at a full spectrum of statistics – assists, turnovers, rebounds, points off turnovers, second chance points, foul shots – to get an understanding of why a team won (or lost) that game, as well as understand which players were instrumental in the team’s success or failure. The same is true in affiliate marketing – in 2017 the idea of looking at “last click conversions” can tell you who’s generating the most amount of sales, but it doesn’t necessarily indicate the importance that each publisher plays in the path to purchase. That’s why attribution is so critical in affiliate marketing – you need to know which publishers are driving ‘assists’ in sales, which ones are helping customers who might be on the fence to convert, and how customers are engaging with all these different publishing models.

3. Superstars Don’t Outweigh a Smart Strategy

There are a few teams that come to mind for even the most casual of college basketball fans, and the University of Kentucky is certainly one of them. Built on a history of success in the postseason, Kentucky recently has been known for their ability to recruit elite talent at every position. And yet, in the years they’ve done this, they’ve only won the entire tournament once.


Simply put, superstars don’t outweigh a well-planned strategy. You can have amazing talent at every position but if you don’t have a clear plan, you may end up getting bounced from the Tournament.

The same is true in affiliate marketing. You want partners who excel in their niche, but you also want partners who understand their audiences. For example, consider an influencer – you don’t want an influencer with a million followers and zero engagement because this may that, even though they have the volume of followers, they’re not creating lasting conversations with their audience. Find the partners that will work hard for you, understand their role, and help you succeed!

4. March Madness is About Underdogs

Any team can be a Cinderella story in the March Madness Tournament. Experts said they wouldn’t go far, or wouldn’t matter much, but then the final weekend comes and they’re playing for the championship. Because, as history has shown us, anything can happen in March.

Affiliate marketing is no different. You need to be agile and ready to adapt to any opportunity that arises. For example, Free Shipping Day and Singles Day were both nonexistent ten years ago, but now both can be critical opportunities to boost Q4 sales efforts. Cyber Monday and Black Friday were huge for affiliate marketing this year, and as mobile and online shopping trends continue to rise there are no signs of that slowing down. At any point a new opportunity can arise, one that you didn’t plan for or maybe even think would make it far enough to garner attention. That’s why, as affiliate marketers, we need to be ready whenever a new opportunity comes. Learn the changes and get ready for an opportunity you may not have expected but must capitalize on!

5. Communication is Crucial

If you watch a basketball game this March, and I mean watch what’s happening, you’ll notice something interesting: there is constant communication going on at multiple levels. Coaches are calling set plays and defensive sets. Players are communicating with other players, officials are communicating with score keepers, players, and coaches and fans are communicating with the refs (probably telling them what a terrible job they’re doing) – everywhere you look there’s communication.

This level of communication is also critical for affiliate marketers. If you’re an advertiser it is important you leverage communication channels to reach your publishers (such as newsletters or Deal Dispatcher). Your publishers need to know what they must work with, and if a publisher is being relied on to do more (through an exclusive offer or because of an increased commission opportunity) it’s important you reach them and make sure they know they’re the go-to publisher in this campaign.

Tags: Advertisers, Affiliate Marketing, Publishers, Casual Friday

Don't Miss a Post!