blue spotlights behind the net of an empty basketball court

4 Ways to Drive Student and Alumni Engagement During March Madness

Higher education involves plenty of madness: the mad rush to register for courses, the madness of move-in day and the maddening processes of helping students complete FAFSA. 

But every spring, we step into a whole different type of Madness. Students at colleges and universities nationwide will be riveted by the March Madness tournament, especially those lucky 68 institutions that are home to the competing teams. 

Athletic and alumni departments now have a unique opportunity to engage current students, alumni and even prospective students. 

Here are four savvy ways you can convert their enthusiasm for March Madness into engagement with your institution. 

1. Hype up pre-game events and other activities

Let’s get ready to rumble! Spread the word far and wide about what’s happening on campus and online to celebrate your team or the tournament as a whole. 

  • Blast happenings on your social media accounts, ideally with photos and videos to supercharge engagement
  • Highlight events in your student activities calendar
  • Send out themed emails that embrace the Madness
  • Text students RSVP forms, day-of reminders or FYIs about what to bring, do or wear (FYI: 98% of texts get read vs. just 20% of emails!)
  • Use Modern Campus Involve to share event details through your branded portal and app, along with digital signage

2. Involve alumni

Most students don’t lose their love of the game after graduation. In fact, your alumni may feel extra connected to, invested in and proud of your institution during March Madness.

The next few weeks can be an incredible opportunity to connect with alumni, who may be more likely to respond than during the months when your institution isn’t in the national spotlight. 

You can reach out to alumni about local events, gift-giving opportunities, chances to volunteer, social media promotions and more. Asking alumni to share photos, videos or written memories of themselves celebrating March Madness—whether this year or when they were students—can allow you to create a montage that engages more of their peers. 

You can also use March Madness to deepen your relationship with alumni—without asking them to donate, attend or share anything. Sending them videos of campus, lyrics of fight songs or braggadocious news about your team are all great, easy ways to excite alumni.

In addition to email and snail mail, consider one-to-one texting. As The University of Notre Dame found, texting through Modern Campus Message is fast and easy—plus it reaches many alumni who’ve long ignored other forms of communication. 

3. Connect with prospective students

Having an excellent men’s basketball team probably won’t convince many students to apply and enroll on its own (beyond the aspiring players), but your campus culture, student activities and institutional traditions might pique prospects’ interests and make them feel invested in your school from afar.

March Madness can be a great time to share photos, videos and stories showcasing school pride to prospective learners. Consider engaging them through social media, email and targeted text messages that entice them to become part of your longstanding traditions. 

Did you know? With Modern Campus Message, you can send photos, videos and gifs right to your prospect’s phones; no need for them to convince them to download anything or click a link. 

4. Track and learn from attendance

After one lucky team wins the Naismith Trophy and this year’s Madness ends, you can continue learning from the month’s events and activities to increase engagement all year round. 

Tracking engagement is key. By checking every student into every event, you can discover which programming and marketing tactics work best. Was engagement higher during certain days of the week? Did events with free food really attract more students? The answers can help inform your program planning for semesters to come.

Knowing who attended which events will also allow you to follow up with participants. You can send out surveys to learn what they liked and didn’t like about each program. You can also uncover their motivations for attending. Was it the free swag? The team spirit? The great marketing?

You may also discover that some students who embrace March Madness events haven’t been engaged in any other type of programming throughout the year. You can then connect with those learners, learn why March Madness excited them so much, design other opportunities to engage them year-round and target promotions to them. 

New to the tracking game? Modern Campus Involve makes it easy—with digital ID cards to streamline event check-in, custom correlating filters to discover attendance patterns among different student demographics, dynamic visual reporting to encourage data-informed decision making and so much more. We’d be happy to give you a demo.

Ready to enhance your communications with conversational one-to-one text messaging?

Read our guide to align your goals, design engaging messages and connect with the right students, prospects and alumni.

a Higher Ed Guide for Designing Text Messaging Campaigns - download now

Student Experience

Last updated: March 15, 2023


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