On CBS SportsLine, video is the key ingredient of March Madness on Demand (MMOD). This year, there are 31 advertisers for MMOD versus 20 last year when the live streams of the games were largely experimental.
CBS SportsLine counts Dell, Courtyard by Marriott, AT&T, E*Trade, Microsoft, Sonic restaurants, and Pontiac among the advertisers taking advantage of online video advertising opportunities during this year's tournament.
"We're experiencing more excitement than last year," said Steve Snyder, chief operating officer, CBS Interactive. Snyder notes that last year, sponsors didn't exactly know what they were getting into. "This year, it's more like 'This is really, really cool. I want to be here.'"
In addition, some advertisers and agencies have used the high-profile opportunity to experiment with fun, creative executions that really encourage fans to enjoy the ads.
For example, Sonic's video ad offers a game with its tator tots. Basically, viewers can click through to a game where they can fling tator tots into a guy's mouth. With this type of ad, "you can really get people involved in your brand because they're interacting with the ad," Snyder said.
A Marriott ad invites viewers to spin a basketball on their finger and shoot for three-pointers. "It's goofy," Snyder said, but "you get interaction and the message is right next to the scoreboard. You interact with the scoreboard and the message."
Pontiac enhances its "Game Changing Performance" sponsorship by using a special technology from Rovion to have sportscaster Greg Gumbel appear to personally invite fans to vote in the contest.
In addition, there's ad synchronization on MMOD. For example, SportsLine offers the video ads combined with so-called "tower" ads, 600 x 180 units tethered to the side of the player for maximum effect.
Snyder said SportsLine is in the process of changing the way it manages and counts video streams, since a 10-minute content stream should be counted differently than a one-minute on-demand stream. "The more important metrics we're counting are time spent, ads served, and revenue-generated. We're trying to figure it out."
Online video content became an even bigger deal for March Madness as last week, CBS and YouTube announced a partnership to place an NCAA March Madness channel with CBS Sports content on the popular online video hub.
The channel will deliver game highlights, press conferences, and video clips produced by CBS Sports and CSTV--all available for access by visitors to YouTube. The move underscores just how quickly traditional media organizations are moving to incorporate online video into their offerings.
As of March 15, CBS SportsLine reported 800,000 registrations for March Madness on Demand, with those registrants visiting the MMOD video player over 1.5 million times.