Breaking Down March Madness and the NCAA Tournament for Businesses
Researched and edited by Jeffrey Meyers
It’s that special time of year when people get swept up in March Madness. The annual NCAA Division I basketball tournament to determine the best team in the U.S. runs for several weeks but kicks off with several consecutive days of games played most waking hours. It’s a dream come true for sports fans, but even casual spectators take an interest. Here’s an overview of the tournament with takeaways for business leaders and managers.
1. The “Big Dance,” the field of 64 / Your industry and primary competition
The bracket of 64 teams competing to win the tournament is a great representation of your market. The teams in your division represent your closest competitors, those companies with whom you vie for customers’ attention, mind-share, and dollars on a daily basis.
Hopefully you’re “in it to win it,” that you want to advance and move up in the rankings. It’s a single-elimination tournament, so one loss and you’re out. But with a few wins, you can find yourself moving from one of 64 teams, to 32, to the Sweet Sixteen, Elite Eight, Final Four. If you’ve gotten this far, then you’re one of the best in the business.
When you think about your company’s position within your industry, would you make it onto the bracket? Would you be a top seed or a late selection? What would it take to enable you to compete with your top opponents?
2. The players / Your employees
In college basketball, the on-court talent ranges from the wet-behind-the-ears freshmen to seasoned NBA-bound seniors. Do you have the best team to help your company win? Do they rise to the occasion or crumble under pressure?
Do they prepare themselves so that they can perform at their best, or do they show up and expect to play well without having practiced? Do the veterans help mentor the younger talent, or are they viewed as internal competition?
Attrition and concern are major concerns from year to year. Your team is constantly changing and evolving. (Having a long-term employee in the NCAA tournament is 4 years.) Are you bringing in the right talent to replace those who leave?
3. The coaches / Your leaders and managers
Many college basketball coaches are celebrities and the face of the program. While you might have superstar talent on your roster for a few years, some legendary coaches are there for decades, lending stability and consistency to an environment in which the players are changing.
How much do your coaches teach their employees? Do they instill good knowledge of the business as well as discipline and practice habits? If they’re there to babysit, then they are sure to be ineffective managers. College basketball coaches are unable to micromanage since it’s the players who are on the court, executing the game plan. Can you say the same for your managers?
4. The fanfare and media hype / Minimizing job distractions
A few months ago we wrote about minimizing job distractions when the pressure’s on. The context was the preparation time leading up to the Super Bowl. While some NFL players are without a doubt immature and easily distracted by spotlight, imagine being a college player trying to maintain the same level of focus.
It’s hard to expect someone who is barely 18 years old to maintain their composure and singular focus on preparing for and playing their best in the big game. But that’s what they signed up for. Fans are there to cheer, players are there to play.
5. Other tournaments / Indirect competition
The field of 64 teams is not your only competition. There are other tournaments for lesser-performing teams that didn’t make it to the NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Championship. One such event is the National Invitation Tournament (NIT), which is often derogatorily referred to as the “Not Invited Tournament.”
While these teams won’t win the top honors in basketball, they are still competing and drawing attention from fans, schools, and the media, which means that – however insignificant it may be – not all eyes are on the Division I games. Local schools will get media coverage and alums and other people with ties to those schools will watch. And for the same reason that some prefer college games over professional ones, some people actually prefer to watch the lesser-known and promoted tournaments. (And don’t forget that women’s teams have their own tournaments and standings.)
Your business has direct and indirect competitors. Are you positioned to compete with them or piggy back on their presence? They don’t have to be selling the same products or services; but if they are competing for share of mind and wallet, then you’re in competition. When people have discretionary funds to spend, will they choose your business? Here’s where great customer service can keep people coming back.
6. Office pools / Employee engagement (or disengagement)
Not just for hoops-hungry fanatics, but anyone with an opinion on schools, uniform colors, mascots, or other variables that go into completing a tournament bracket. One of the worst-kept secrets in business, many companies try to turn a blind eye to the hoopla while some issue terse warnings against betting in the office and attempt to minimize job distractions.
Remember the novelty of the online pop-up tickers several years ago? When bandwidth wasn’t as robust as it is today, March Madness score watchers helped slow down their companies’ networks, which literally brought productivity to a halt.
I’m not advocating office gambling, but what if companies embraced the passion? Stage an event to kick off the games. Let workers wear their team colors for a day. Find a way to leverage this interest with employee engagement.
Image credit: http://www.ncaa.com/finalfour