NEW YORK: Capital One, the financial services group, has witnessed considerable success from combining real-time online marketing with offline sponsorship.

The company is an official partner of the NCAA, a not-for-profit organisation which coordinates the athletic activities of many colleges throughout America.

In a bid to maximise the benefits of this tie-up during the annual end-of-winter NCAA Men's Division 1 Basketball Championship – commonly known as "March Madness" and a true highlight of the sporting calendar – it ran a three-week campaign based around social media.

"That was the focus of our team's approach: How do we really kick-start our thinking in terms of real-time marketing, and how do we leverage an investment that we're already making," Patrick McLean, Capital One's vp/digital brand strategy, said.

"We were trying to capitalise on this fever that people have around the passion for their school, [and] especially around these sporting events."

Twitter was used to communicate with followers of the tournament teams, spurring them on to vociferously support their side on the web using the "rallycry" hashtag. (For more, read Warc's exclusive report: How Capital One combined real-time marketing and sponsorship.)

In addition to sending generalized tweets, Capital One utilised social listening to identify the most interesting posts made by consumers. After finding the appropriate messages, a dedicated social "command center" produced content in real time, and distributed it to the relevant Twitter members.

Celebrities affiliated with Capital One, like the former NCAA and NBA basketball star Greg Anthony, also got involved on this platform.

The brand even reached out to big names – like the model Kate Upton – that it had no formal relationship with, but who were tweeting about March Madness. In doing so, it could draw them voluntarily into the campaign.

Such efforts were supplemented by alliances with three popular user-generated YouTube channels, each aimed at different demographics, from hardcore sports fans to women interested in lifestyle content.

As a company that is traditionally highly invested in TV, Capital One committed to taking a fully integrated approach by incorporating the "rallycry" into its television spots.

The results spoke for themselves, as Capital One generated over 130 million online impressions and five million views for its YouTube content.

Alongside securing thousands of tweets and retweets, it was also able to drive up the average number of interactions with its tweets compared with 2012 thanks to a mixture of organic best practices and highly-targeted paid-media activity.

Data sourced from Warc