Fun. Timely. Creative. A back door to mission awareness.

I love when brands and organizations launch campaigns which grab your attention but aren’t in your face with a “buy buy buy” or “donate donate donate” focus. Instead, they engage their audience with something imaginative which keeps them top of mind.

A nonprofit’s March Madness campaign caught my eye. I participated and I wanna share with you what they did and why it worked so well.

March Madness

Almost everyone you know participated in some way in March Madness. Whether filling out multiple brackets, betting money, joining office or family pools, picking March Madness games has become a part of the common culture.

For the record: I came in third in my family’s pool. There were only four of us but on the plus side I beat one of my sons. So there.

For the record II: My home state is Connecticut. Happy that UConn won this year’s men’s tourney!

This year’s March Madness was magnified because the women’s tournament had a ridiculous amount of people watching it. Call it the “Caitlin Clark Effect.” Millions more followed the tournament and watched the games on TV, which is awesome.

Basically, March Madness has become something you can’t avoid.

So if you’re a brand, why not embrace it and use it to connect with people!

This is exactly what a nonprofit named Kanbe’s Markets did.

Over 400,000 people in Kansas City lack reasonable access to fresh, healthy and affordable foods. Kanbe’s offers innovative food delivery systems, education and access so thousands of those who need it have access to fresh fruits and vegetables.

I love their mission and the work they do.

But I really love the March Madness idea they shared on email and social media. Kanbe’s Market’s Madness tournament was a hit!

A Great Idea

The annual March Madness college basketball tournament breaks 64 teams into four regions: East, Southeast, Midwest and West. Each team is seeded 1 through 16 in each bracket. 1 plays 16, 2 vs. 15, 3 vs. 14 etc.

Winners play on until one team has won their games in every round: The round of 64, 32, Sweet Sixteen, Elite Eight, Final Four and the championship game. The tournament plays out over 3 weekends of close games and heart stopping finishes.

Kanbe’s took this idea, created their own tournament which was a contest meant to be fun, provide prizes and most important, raise mission awareness.

(If you prefer watching to reading, watch this video I made about the first weekend of their tournament.)

In mid March they emailed subscribers to announce the tournament and included a bracket:

Kanbe's Markets March Madness bracket

I LOVE this! They pitted fruits vs. vegetables and asked people to pick winners of each “game.”

That in itself is engaging and fun. But then, in the initial email, they provided a “scouting report” for each region- just like what you’d see on ESPN or any other site covering the real March Madness.

Scouting report for each fruit and vegetable in the Kanbe's tournament

The copy is fantastic!!!!!

The email directed me to a Google Form:

Google Form for Kanbe's Markets tourney

Using that form I had to pick every single matchup.

Fruits in the tourney

Veggies in the tourney


At the bottom of the form they asked me which fruit or vegetable would be the ultimate winner. They’d provide a prize to one person who correctly guessed the winner.

So simple! Very creative! Lots of fun! Very engaging!

And best of all, so on brand!

Each weekend Kanbe’s emailed me and shared with me the results based on voting from their audience. With each new round they requested that I pick winners from the remaining fruits/veggies and I of course was happy to participate.

Email Plus Social Media

Kanbe’s very smartly made sure to increase eyeballs on their campaign by sharing it on social media as well.

For example, they used Instagram and Instagram Stories to encourage people to vote in each round. Here’s what they posted on Instagram before the Sweet 16:

Kanbe's Sweet Sixteen

Then they asked everyone to go to their Instagram Stories and pick winners:

Sweet Sixteen matchup

In their emails they encouraged people to follow them on Instagram so they could get updates about the tournament. Very smart move and here’s why:

Not everybody reads every email you send. Not everyone sees every social media post you publish. Some people prefer email while others prefer social.

When you run a campaign, always use email AND social media to maximize the number of people exposed to the campaign and drive max eyeballs to your website to donate or take the action you’d like them to.

I ended up using both the Google Form and Instagram Stories to vote for my picks.

In the end, over 10,000 votes were cast for their March Madness tourney. The winner? “The top-seed and pre-tournament favorite- potato!”

But they didn’t stop there. They had a line of potato merch ready for people to purchase and help their organization. Potato hoodies, crewneck sweatshirts, spud onesie or tshirts for kids.

Great Kanbe's merch

So cute and so smart!

Kanbe’s Markets did a FANTASTIC job with this campaign. They were able to build mission awareness simply by taking March Madness and adapting it to their work.

Nothing over the top. Just a smart, simple, creative idea which engaged their audience.

Well done Kanbe’s Markets, well done!

Wanna learn how to use email to upgrade your fundraising and marketing campaigns? Take a look at the custom email services I offer and be in touch!