Email marketing

4 tips to win March Madness email marketing

Phil Weltman, February 28th 2022
march madness email marketing

Have you built yourself an audience of loyal basketball fans? Or, of folks married to them, who have raised them, or want to become them? 

Then March Madness email marketing campaigns can be a perfect fit for your brand to increase sales or even just build more loyalty with your existing subscribers. 

To help you create a winning March Madness email campaign, here are some tips and tricks that will increase your shot to the finals (i.e. convert those email subscribers into sales). 

Let’s go! 

1. Get off to a fast start with subject lines

The subject line of your email is the first thing your readers will see, so think of this as the start of the game or the tip-off.

The average email campaign receives an open rate of 19.6% (and 20.6% for sporting goods brands), but with a little creativity and proper timing, you can increase your open rate by tapping into the March Madness spirit.

During March Madness, send your emails later in the afternoon — right when people need a little distraction from work and around the time the big games are starting.

Klaviyo data shows that companies that send an email around 4 p.m. receive an open rate 61% higher than the average.

In fact, we ran a recent test ourselves and saw a 1.5% increase in click-rate when sending at 4 p.m. Here are a few examples of well-crafted March Madness subject lines:

  • Let the Madness BEGIN!
  • It’s tournament time. Madness sale!
  • Slam dunking into your March inbox with a Madness sale!

2. Make the easy shots with automated flows

There are shots in the game that you just have to make because they’re the easy ones, the ones that go a long way toward winning the game. Think of these as your free throw shots.

These email marketing free throws are your automated emails, or what we call flows . Here is how you can make the easy shots with your automated flows:

Welcome series

Email welcome series receive an average open rate of 44%, with a revenue per recipient (RPR) of $1.68. They perform well because you’re passing the ball to a rookie—meaning they’re excited to get some play time and have the highest upside.

When a new subscriber signs up for your newsletter, send them a fun March Madness themed welcome series. This creates an excellent opportunity to ask what their favorite team is (which gets you Customer-First Data) while offering them a discount if they provide you with an answer.

Abandoned cart

Abandoned cart emails are one of the highest revenue generating emails—making companies an average of 5.81 cents for every email sent. This is because you’re reaching out to an extremely engaged customer. They’ve made it all the way to checkout, they just need to be given the opportunity to take the shot and score.

Add a March Madness twist by using a creative subject line like, “Second chance to hit the game-winning shot.” Tailor the content around a discount that they receive if they hit the shot (purchase).

If you’re going to use a discount, I recommend using a dollar-based discount. This type of offer saw a significantly higher RPR than percentage-based and free shipping discounts.


Win-back emails are designed to bring players out of retirement—or past customers back to your store to purchase.

These emails might not be as sure of a shot as your welcome series or abandoned cart but are worth the effort of setting them up as they receive an average open rate of 32%.

Help bring these players back by offering a March Madness discount.

3. Study your opponents to personalize your plays

Every player and coach in the NCAA tournament watch hours of film to learn everything they can about their opponents—giving them the best chance of hoisting up the championship trophy come the end of March.

You might not consider your audience as “opponents,” but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t learn everything you can about them.

Knowing your readers will help send targeted, segmented email campaigns.

My favorite segment for March Madness is targeting people based on their location. Using their location, you can make an educated guess as to what team they’ll be rooting for.

For example, create a segment of everybody who lives close to Durham, North Carolina and send them emails with a Duke University theme.

If you don’t have their location, send out an email asking them who their favorite teams are in this year’s tournament, then segment based on their answer.

4. Optimize your game

If you run the same play over and over again, your competition is going to catch on and you’ll start losing games. A/B testing your subject lines, preview text, and email content will help you optimize your email strategy to help you send winning emails game after game.

Some things you can test:

Subject lines

The subject line of your email is a great place to start A/B testing, because it is the first part your audience sees. Getting off to a good start can make or break a basketball game.

In the subject line, you can test a lot of different approaches, like;

  1. Personalization vs. non-personalization: Personalization can be looked at in two ways, it could come off as personable or creepy. Test using your reader’s first name to see how it resonates with your audience. If they’ve abandoned a product, try adding that specific product into the subject line.
  2. Emojis: Using emojis in your subject line adds personality to your emails. Try testing to see if a basketball emoji works in your March Madness campaign.
  3. Discounts: Are you running a March Madness promotion? If so, try testing to see if adding a discount to you subject line helps increase open rates.


Including a discount to your emails can be the difference between someone purchasing or not.

It’s also good to A/B test the different types of promotions in both your subject lines and your content to see which ones get readers to open and purchase.

Try testing the following promotions:

  • Dollar-based discount
  • Percentage-based discounts
  • Free shipping
  • Free gift(s)


March Madness gives you a unique opportunity to test creative, fun, singular content.

Highlight a big play or a crazy upset that everyone is talking about. If you know your readers’ favorite team, create content that is dedicated to that team — adding another layer of personalization that will have you crush the competition.

Take the shot this March Madness season

With these key strategies in your playbook, you’ll be well prepared to take your email campaigns to the Final Four. Creating eye-catching subject lines will help you win the tip-off, while hitting the easy shots, studying film, and optimizing your play will help you finish strong and win the big game.

Ready to get started with Klaviyo?
Sign up
Phil Weltman
Phil Weltman
Phil was formerly on the marketing team at Klaviyo. Prior to marketing, Phil spent a year on the growth team helping lead the charge to build a digital marketing platform for nonprofits and fundraising organizations.