Auto Brands See March Madness Uptick

Even though just about everyone’s bracket has been busted, auto brands that are advertising during the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament are garnering shopper traffic, awareness and consideration.

Cox Automotive, which includes Autotrader, and Kelley Blue Book, monitored shopper activity online during the first round of March Madness games, March 17 - 19.

While Autotrader saw a downward trend in traffic during actual game play (which is expected and is historically true for most major sporting events across online retail), all four March Madness brand advertisers (Buick, Infiniti, Acura, Alfa Romeo) recorded search share increase on Autotrader during this time period. 

“Sites like Autotrader and Kelley Blue Book and dealership websites ‘ride out’ the initial dip in traffic and spend money to influence these audiences when they aren’t actively searching for a car,” says Jessica Stafford, Cox Automotive Media vice president of marketing. “That’s where the non-endemic, or not immediately discernible, marketing takes place and provides a powerful ROI.”



Alfa Romeo continues to ride off its momentum from the Super Bowl, as AT/DDC saw a significant increase in VDP views (+22%) March 16-19 vs. the previous two weekend averages for the brand. 

On Autotrader, Acura and Buick saw a slight rise in desktop search share only: Specifically, Infiniti saw a 2 - 3% uptick in both desktop and mobile search share. Alfa Romeo saw a 14% lift in desktop and a 37.5% lift in mobile search share.

According to, which operates 62% of all dealership websites, its DataView (Consumer Engagement) and nGauge Quality Analysis for the weekend of March 16 - 19, Acura saw a small lift in Quality Visits, Visits and VDPs for that comparison for only Mobile, desktop was down. Alfa Romeo also saw a lift in Quality Visits, Visits, and VDPs for that comparison for only Mobile, desktop was down. This is indicative of the multi-screen experiences brands are looking to create in attracting car shoppers on their respective devices.

According to the database at Autotrader, Alfa Romero has continued to ride the momentum from its successful “Giulia” Super Bowl campaign into the March Madness games with its traditional and digital marketing.

“Alfa Romeo saw a saw 14% lift in desktop viewership and 37.5% lift in mobile search share on Autotrader over the weekend, and a significant increase in engagement on vehicle listings versus the previous two weekend averages,” Stafford tells Marketing Daily. “’s DataView and nGauge quality analysis also showed a lift in the quality of those visits, meaning car shoppers demonstrated behavior linked to their intent to purchase, which is a major ‘W’ for the brand and its dealerships.”

March Madness is a clear proof point that sporting events, which draw large audiences, can translate to online traffic for marketers in addition to boosting traditional brand awareness, she says. 

“With March Madness, what’s different is we see a cumulative impact across each stage of the tournament, especially in mobile or multi-device use, as viewers multi-task while watching the games,” Stafford says. “There’s a strong opportunity for brands to use sports marketing combined with mobile/multi-screen tactics to have an even greater on-going impact on brand engagement.”

The trick for marketers is to make creative content memorable enough to trigger that top of mind recall when the viewer starts shopping. 

“This is where social and mobile elements become critical: if your brand can connect to the individual in some way, such as gaming experiences paired with social targeting tactics, that recall becomes much more likely to happen,” she says. 

Next story loading loading..