NCAA March Madness soon approaches, ushering in a time when sports fans gather to watch the best of the best in college basketball. It’s also a time when office productivity is expected to take a decline due to game watching and bracket betting pools. According to outplacement firm Challenger, Gray Christmas, Inc., online coverage could attract more than 2.5 million unique visitors per day, “with each [employee] spending an average of 90 minutes watching games. With private-sector workers earning an average of $23.29 per hour … employers will end up paying distracted workers about $175 million over the first two full days of the tournament.”
One professional seeks to turn this popular craze into productive (and lucrative) lessons on investing, promoting financial literacy among those who love sports and brackets. Robert Wilson, vice president at Blazer Capital Management L.L.C, has created March Money Madness, an investing-focused game that allows players to put stocks head to head.
BlackEnterprise.com caught up with Wilson on how he linked a love of sports with advocating financial literacy, how his celebrity sports clientele inspired his idea and how youth can learn more about investing in creative ways.
BlackEnterprise.com: What inspired you to create the March Money Madness?
Robert Wilson: In my financial advisory practice, I work with professional athletes and entertainers. I also speak to kids a lot about financial topics, but I found that all they wanted to talk about were my celebrity clients. Instead of pushing back on that, I decided to fight fire with fire by trying to find a way to leverage their interest in sports and entertainment to teach them about important financial topics.
That’s how March Money Madness was born. I developed the game in an effort to leverage the popularity of the NCAA basketball tournament and brackets that so many people fill out before the tournament. It’s estimated that 40 million people fill out at least one bracket for March Madness, so I felt as though there was a huge interest that I could play off of.
How exactly does March Money Madness work?
Players sign up for the bracket challenge and pay a $5 entry fee. The top prize this year is 50% of the entry fees, so the more people play, the more the winner can take home. I have an ambitious goal to educate 100,000 people this year. If 100,000 people join the challenge, someone can walk away with $250,000 to pay off debt, go to school or start the business of their dreams.
After each round, the players receive an e-mail and video recap of the market action from the week including an analysis on why each particular stock won (or lost) its match-up and the factors that led to the outcome.
Today, the list and pairings of the 64 stocks included in the challenge will be announced, and players can begin making their picks.
Players must make their picks for the first round by 9:30 a.m. (the time the stock market opens) on March 12.
The challenge works in a round-by-round format. This means players make their picks for each round, rather than picking the winners for the entire tournament up front. This allows players who didn’t have many correct picks the first round, for example, to still be engaged in the competition since their entire bracket will not be ruined by a bad first round. Because points increase for each round, anyone can win.
To further explain this: Let’s say two first-round match ups were Apple vs. Microsoft and Google vs. Yahoo, and the winners of these two match-ups will play in the second round. You picked Microsoft and Yahoo to win their first round games, however, Apple and Google were the actual winners. You would get no points for your incorrect picks for those first round games, but because the game is in a round-by-round format, you can pick between Apple and Google for the second round match-up. If you had to make all of your picks for the entire tournament up front, you would not have an opportunity to get points on this second round match-up because neither team that you picked in round 1, made it to round 2.
Note: Players do not actually “buy” stocks in their account with March Money Madness.