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The Margin: March Madness bracket busted? You can still score free Krispy Kreme doughnuts, gym discounts and more

If you’re playing the guess-the-winners game when it comes to the NCAA March Madness tournament, there’s a good chance your bracket is already busted. After all, there’s only a one-in-9.2 quintillion chance of having a perfect bracket through the end of the entire competition.

But busted bracketeers can take heart: At least there are some freebies they can claim, including Krispy Kreme doughnuts.

Yes, the latest marketing strategy among companies is to offer consumers perks of various kinds connected with failed bracket predictions. The idea is simple enough, explain marketing professionals: The March Madness tournament is a perennial hot topic — and so is the bracket game attached to it — so why not try to tie your brand to the trend and profit from it?

Krispy Kreme
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is among the biggest names taking such a promotional approach. The chain is offering a free doughnut — specifically, its original glazed variety — to anyone who shows proof of a busted bracket. Company officials are quick to note it doesn’t have to be a March Madness bracket — any kind of bracket from any kind of tournament or challenge will suffice.

“We’re a brand that’s about having fun, so it seemed like a good time for us to have fun with this,” said Dave Skena, Krispy Kreme’s chief marketing officer.

The doughnut company is, of course, famous for doing giveaways as a promotional tool — it offered freebies tied to COVID vaccinations and even gives customers a dozen doughnuts on their birthday.

Still, Kripsy is hardly alone when it comes to bracket offers. PointsBet, the online sports-betting company, is giving customers a free $10 bet with proof of a busted bracket. Other companies, from banking giant CapitalOne
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to the White Castle fast-food chain, have had busted-bracket promotions in the past.

Some companies simply use the bracket craze to tout their brand.

A case in point: The Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan, a Jewish community center in New York City, has been promoting membership in its gym via social media with a pitch that says “Bracket busted? You can still be a March Madness winner!” The organization is offering a free month’s membership to those who sign up in March, but it isn’t requiring proof of a busted bracket.

JCC Manhattan executive Melissa Donovan said that membership sales are up by 30% this month over the pre-pandemic period in March 2019. She thinks the promotion is partly the reason.

It captures “the essence of consumer psychology this time of year,” she said.

Craig Agranoff, a Florida-based marketing specialist, says it’s indeed smart for companies to play up the bracket craze, since it’s such a trending topic. If anything, he wonders why more companies don’t do busted-bracket promotions or themed advertising.

“A dentist should be talking about busted teeth,” he said.

Krispy Kreme officials say it’s too early to tell if the chain’s busted-bracket promotion will bring in more customers, though it’s already creating buzz on social media. Skena, the company’s marketing chief, also notes that if you happen to be that one-in-9.2 quintillion person with a perfect bracket, you can still claim the offer.

“We’ll give them a doughnut,” he pledged.

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