Method in the (March) Madness: Why the NCAA’s flagship tournament was a slam dunk for bettor acquisition

March Madness
Image source: Al Sermeno Photography /

The eagerly awaited 2021 edition of NCAA’s March Madness tournament was everything it was hyped up to be for operators and more.

That’s according to Paul Severini, the newly appointed VP of Sales for North America at player acquisition and retention software specialists Xtremepush.

“We talked recently about the Super Bowl LV being something of a graduation ceremony for the nascent US betting industry,” he said. “Well, I think March Madness has been another leap forward yet again. And this is hugely encouraging, particularly after the disappointment of seeing the tournament cancelled last year.

“All of these big marquee events on the US calendar like the World Series, NBA playoffs, the Stanley Cup and so on, are so important for sportsbooks in terms of product awareness and player acquisition. 

“From our perspective, we’re helping operators make sure that they are capitalizing on the increased levels of interest amongst both seasoned and inexperienced bettors, and that they’re nudging them through the registration gate towards their first deposit and online bet.” 

SBC Americas asked Severini to quantify the impact of March Madness in this regard.

“To be honest, it’s difficult to overestimate the impact of March Madness,” he replied. “It’s clear that the excitement and interest around this event encouraged a lot of fans to open accounts. I think, at a conservative estimate, operators are looking at 15-20% more sign-ups during those few weeks compared to the same time period in the months prior.

“And the actual engagement figures are off the charts, particularly on mobile. I’ve been pouring over the numbers amongst our own US clients, and they saw anywhere from a 30% to 50% bump in activity across these few weeks. We’re strong advocates for mobile engagement at Xtremepush, we believe it’s the future of the industry here in the US. And the operators who are getting it right are reaping the rewards already.”

These numbers definitely align with reports that several states, including Michigan and New Jersey, experienced their biggest ever handle during March. So, does Severini have any insight into the types of campaigns best resonating with bettors?

He said: “The halftime, ‘boosted odds’ messages performed really well. I think that’s something we’ll see a lot more of. Push notifications sent out in the 15 minutes or so prior to the start of a game are driving a lot of action, too. 

“I think we all recognize the value of in-play betting, and how suited it is to major sports here. We’re excited to be supporting our clients in getting those real-time odds out to bettors. It’s something I want to see operators here do more of, actually, as they do in Europe.”

And how does Xtremepush believe US operators compare to their European counterparts in terms of their ability to engage with bettors?

“I can only speak to what I know our clients are doing,” admitted Severini. “But looking at the levels of personalization and audience segmentation, I’d say US operators are growing in confidence. By now, they’ve established their go-to campaign types to promote big games, their ‘playbook’ if you like. 

“They’re expanding the repertoire month by month, taking the learnings from each event and sharpening the sword. And the more data they gather on their player base around preferences and interests, the better their campaigns will become.”

Xtremepush has published multichannel digital engagement playbooks for both sportsbooks and casinos.