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Purpose, Strategy & Culture

Hershey Storms the Court to Give Sweet and Salty Fans a Win During March Madness

Heading into the Final Four, consumers are reaching for salty, sweet and easy-to-prep snacks according to a poll from Hershey’s Consumer Insights team. As the official Candy, Pretzel and Popcorn Partner of NCAA Basketball, Hershey is excited to deliver delicious flavors to get fans out of the kitchen and into the game.
Marlene Creighton, Chief Sales Officer and Erica Norton, Senior Director, Consumer Insights

Key Takeaways:

    • Interest in March Madness continues to grow, as 39% of consumers are participating in the excitement this year—whether filling out a bracket or attending a watch party.
    • Over half of consumers are reaching for salty snacks while watching their favorite teams play, while 39% plan to indulge in candy and chocolate.
    • No matter how consumers snack, The Hershey Company is making a strategic play to power college basketball fans with Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and Dot’s Homestyle Pretzels.

April 4, 2024

You don’t have to be a basketball fan to know people go crazy for March Madness. This year, 39% of consumers are participating in the season's excitement – with 11% joining the fun for the first time as the popularity of the NCAA tournament grows.

Expanding our 16-year partnership with the NCAA, this year, we made a strategic play to deliver a robust omnichannel strategy. Whether it’s Reese’s fans enjoying iconic chocolate and peanut butter cups, Dot’s Homestyle Pretzels fans savoring salty seasonings, or they’re curious about mixing in a bit of both, Hershey is setting up consumers and retailers to deliver on both sweet and salty cravings this season.

Bracket Challenge: Salty vs. Sweet (With Hershey You Don’t Have to Choose)

So, what snacks are fans reaching for? According to our March 2024 Pulse Survey, consumers are most interested in crowd-pleasers that are bite-sized and “poppable,” requiring little or no prep.

Salty snacks are crowd favorites during all sporting events, with 56% of respondents planning to offer salty options like chips, pretzels and cheese puffs. Consumers say salty snacks, like Dot’s Homestyle Pretzels or SkinnyPop Popcorn, are perfect as a standalone snack and as an appetizer.

Sweets shouldn’t be overlooked, as 39% of consumers enjoy chocolate and candy options. Chocolate candy offers a perfect treat for game-watching, as 1 in 5 consumers say they want something indulgent while they watch the games.

And for those who don’t want to choose between salty and sweet, Reese’s University rolled out new recipes for at-home celebrations for March Madness to show there’s no competition regarding snacking perfection. From Caramelly Crunchy Peanut Bars to Reese’s Game Day Nachos, there’s something for everyone.


Reese’s Gears Up for a Full Court Press
It’s not just March Madness that excites Reese’s fans. Households purchasing Reese’s products increased 11% during the 2023 season. As a crowd-pleasing hero offering an indulgent combination of chocolate and peanut butter, it’s not hard to see why.

To continue reigning as America’s No. 1 candy franchise, the Reese’s brand is connecting with consumers throughout the tournament. To elevate the experience of its fans, the brand is: 

  • Offering a full line-up of product variations, like Reese’s Caramel Big Cup, and multiple packtypes to pair perfectly with on-the-go watching, casual viewing and game day get togethers.
  • Rolling out an omnichannel strategy featuring basketball-themed in-store displays, branded campaigns on consumer social feeds, and influencer partnerships to show how well Reese’s pairs with game-day spreads.
  • Getting in the game at Reese’s University by supporting the growing (and ambitious) initiative to surprise, delight and engage university enrollees in an immersive brand world with merch, social media activations, offers and experiences.
  • Hosting the Final Four Friday on April 6, a free public event packed with activities for the whole family – from open team practices for the Men’s Final Four teams to the Reese’s NABC All-Star Game, showcasing top senior student-athletes from across the nation.