Purpose, Strategy & Culture

Reese’s & The NCAA® Tournament: Two Iconic Brands Reunite to Win March Madness

During the COVID-19 pandemic we felt the loss of cherished traditions, but found new ways to celebrate. In 2021, Reese's engaged with consumers and sports fans in new ways during March Madness as the "Official Candy Partner of the NCAA®."
Margo Mcilvaine
Brand Manager, Reese's

Key Takeaways:

  • Reese’s has been the “Official Candy Partner of the NCAA®” for the past eight years and while March Madness looked different in 2021, we committed to engaging with consumers in new and creative ways.
  • Reese’s sponsored the NCAA® bracket for the first time, connecting with viewers on digital platforms leading up to and during the tournament, and giving consumers the chance to win big.
  • By bringing two iconic brands—Reese’s and March Madness—Hershey brought more moments of goodness and a sense of normalcy to our consumers.

Hershey has a longstanding legacy of showing up and engaging consumers around important cultural moments, and we are ready to go BIG for the return of March Madness. A year after the cancelation of the celebrated tournament, it is time to reunite the two iconic brands of Reese’s and NCAA®.

Sports are a huge point of passion in consumers’ lives and just like March Madness, so much of what makes Reese’s special is fans’ passion for the brand. In fact, Reese’s is having a strong run, growing eight percent in the past 52 weeks, over three-times faster than the total confection category! The brand is experiencing strong consumer demand leading up to March Madness and we are ready to meet the moment.

As the “Official Candy Partner of the NCAA®” for more than a decade, we always keep a pulse on how consumers engage with these iconic events in new ways.

While the tournament will look different this year due to COVID, this won’t stop Reese’s from staying relevant and present with consumers through new activations, media and promotions including:

Sponsoring the NCAA® Bracket for the first time

Last year, consumers didn’t have the chance to participate in the big celebrations or fill out a bracket for the tournament. This left a noticeable void for sports fans everywhere, and we’re excited to bring fun back to consumers’ lives with Reese’s sponsorship of the NCAA® bracket, which is one of the high points of the tournament for millions of fans. According to a Nielsen case study on bracket players, 40 million people complete at least one NCAA® bracket. With many fans creating multiple brackets, an estimated 70 million brackets are filled out each year.1

Engaging new and return viewers on more digital platforms

During this last year of the pandemic, consumers increased the amount of content viewed from home, especially as many searched for new ways to (safely) entertain themselves. Through our research, we continue to see shifts in how consumers view—and stream— these events, and even new viewers tuning in. Our consumer insights indicate nine percent of March Madness viewers will be first-time watchers this year. To meet fans where they are, the Reese’s brand will leverage multiple digital and social media platforms to connect with fans, who use their devices to engage during the tournament.

Fulfilling fans’ salty and sweet snack needs with Reese’s Big Cups with Pretzels

March Madness creates multiple snacking opportunities throughout the month-long tournament. For snacking leading up to and during the final championship game, our insights reveal that 89 percent of consumers plan to stick with salty snacks, yet 82 percent still want their favorite sweet snacks at their fingertips.2 This makes Reese’s Big Cups with Pretzels the ideal salty and sweet combination for any March Madness fan.

Giving consumers a chance to win big (even if they’re salty about their team losing)

This year, the Reese’s brand has an on-pack March Madness promotion that gives fans the chance to win Reese’s swag. On our Standard and King Size Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, consumers can win products such as jerseys and basketballs as well as at-home gear like sweatshirts and hats so they can enjoy the tournament in comfort. Custom Reese’s sneakers designed by shoe artist and sneaker influencer Mache are also up for grabs. Even if fans are salty about their team losing in the tournament, they can still win with Reese’s!

Our planned PR will be part of the digitally connected consumer experience with real-time media engagement with our Reese’s brand throughout the tournament engaging Twitter users in “salty moments” with #SaltyReeses. We want to be there with fans for the bracket busts and upsets—whatever they might be feeling salty about. Starting March 18, 1,200 fans will each win one pack of delicious Reese’s Big Cups with Pretzels and a few salty college towns may get a pallet of the product to sweeten any disappointment they may be feeling around the tournament.

As we join two iconic brands this year, Reese’s and March Madness, we hope to bring more moments of goodness (busted bracket or not) and a sense of normalcy back into the lives of basketball and snack lovers everywhere.

To follow the latest from the Reese’s brand, check us out on Twitter @Reeses and Facebook at Facebook.com/Reeses.

[1] Nielsen Case Study, “March Madness Scores Big with Bracket Players”

[2] “Consumer Insights Brain Candy: March Madness”