Timing for the opening of your own bracket site is pretty simple, but you need to make sure that you have these dates in mind:
Early March – Build your Site
If you haven’t done so already, you need to build out your bracket site. This means installing BracketPress and the Pro modules on your site, configuring it, and making sure everything is working. You may want to have a couple of trial tournaments to make sure everything is working properly. If you don’t have a WordPress site, or need some help configuring one, we can build out a site for you. The cost for a basic site is a few hundred dollars, depending on the options you choose. Contact us for details.
Now is a great time to go ahead and let people know about your bracket pool and have them sign up for your site. If it’s a closed pool, simply shoot your friends an email and let them know where to register. If it’s open to the public, you should consider various promotional / advertising mediums. You’ll want to use some sort of plugin to add your members to a mail list so that you can notify them when brackets open.
March 17, Selection Sunday
This is when the 64 teams that will play in the tournament are known. As soon as the teams are chosen, you need to either enter them in your Teams list in BracketPress, or if you use the BracketPress Pro Data plugin, the teams will be updated within a few minutes of selection. Then, click the “reset scoring” button to clear out any test data.
Then, email, send sms text messages, and otherwise let your users know that their brackets are open for real. Also, let your users know that they have only 3 days to fill out their brackets before the system closes for new entries.
You’ll also want to post about any special features of your site: Achievements people can earn, prizes for best bracket (if any), how they can comment on people’s brackets, how they can interact with your site. This is your chance to have
March 19 & 20th, First Four
As you may know, there are actually 68 teams in the tournament, with a playoff between the #16 and #17 teams for the 16th spot. For the purpose of scoring, BracketPress ignores these first four games, in order to allow your users more time to fill out their brackets. The Pro Data plugin will update the appropriate names int he #16 spot for each region as they are known, but the brackets can remain open through these games.
Closing – March 20th or 21st
We suggest letting your users know that brackets will close around midnight on March 20th (choose a time that makes sense for you) – be sure to email your users at least 24 hours in advance of closing, and then again right before close. If you find that many of your users haven’t yet filled out their brackets, you may want to extend the time they have to complete their brackets. Email, twitter and text messaging are webmasters best friends here.
To be fair to all, you *must* close your brackets by the tipoff of the first tournament game. Check your sports news for the exact time that will be, and be sure to account for any differences in timezones.
During the Tournament
If you are scoring brackets manually, come back to the site after each of the 63 games. Update your MASTER bracket with the winner, and click the “run scoring” button. If you have one of the game winning notification plugins installed, your users will automatically be notified if their score changes (they won). If you have Pro, the system will automatically update the master bracket with the correct winners, and run scoring for you, so you don’t have to be break from your celebrations during the 63 games of the tournament.
Encourage people to come back to the site, check the leaderboards, comment on people’s brackets. This is your chance to really engage with your customers, so take some time to do so. A little bragging and some smack talk can help really make this tournament fun for everyone.
After the Tournament
After game day, you’ll be able to see the highest scoring bracket in your admin (re-run scoring if you don’t have Pro installed). Pick the highest scoring bracket (sort by score in the admin). If there’s a tie, you can check the “combined score” and see who was closest. Then congratulate the winner with blog post, prize, or whatever make sense. This another place where you can touch your members in a positive way.
You’ll also want to set expectations for next year, and let people know what they need to do to reserve their spot.