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Never Underestimate a Peacock

Published on April 11, 2022, at 11:01 p.m.
by Katie Holec.

March Madness is the NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament that has become a staple for most sports fans in the month of March. People create brackets to predict the ultimate winner.

Every year March Madness is unpredictable. Not every top-three team is guaranteed to make it far into the bracket — or even past the Round of 64.

Photo by @PeacocksMBB on Twitter

This year, in the 2022 tournament, No. 15 seed St. Peter’s University shocked the sports world, and ruined my bracket, by pulling an 85-79 overtime upset against the No. 2 seed, the University of Kentucky.

Not many people predicted the Peacocks’ win over the infamous blue blood. According to the NCAA, 30% of brackets picked the Wildcats to reach the Final Four and only 3% of brackets had St. Peter’s beating Kentucky.

The moment the buzzer sounded, and the Peacocks secured a spot in the Round of 32, the team’s social media presence on Twitter grew … and kept growing throughout the tournament.

Photo by@PeacocksMBB on Twitter

Following its opening win, the team asked to be verified on Twitter, and it was. Since the request for verification, according to Andrew Bucholtz, as of March 26, 2022, the account “has gained more than 29,000 followers, or 90% of its current follower count.”

St. Peter’s went on to upset the No. 7 seed Murray State University in the Round of 32 and the No. 3 seed Purdue University in the Sweet 16. The Elite Eight is where the Peacocks’ run came to an end after losing by 20 points to the No. 8 seed, The University of North Carolina.

According to Bucholtz, “A run like [St. Peter’s] certainly does improve the national profile of a small private school, and the follower boost for the men’s basketball account is one tangible expression of that.”

Photo by @SInow on Twitter

As the first No. 15 seed to reach the Elite Eight, St. Peter’s is being mentioned on the news, on social media and in conversation as the “greatest Cinderella of all-time.”

Nancy Haskell co-authored a 2020 Journal of Sports Economics study that was based on the quantification of the value of a team’s media exposure during its NCAA Tournament run.

She recently wrote an op-ed on the Peacocks’ media exposure. Haskell noted that “private schools, such as Saint Peter’s, experience the largest gains, with an average increase in freshman enrollment of 4.4% two years after a Cinderella run.”

In addition, she mentioned that “studies have also found an increase in applications following success in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, primarily due to heightened media attention.”

Photo by @PeacocksMBB on Twitter

Because St. Peter’s garnered so much coverage from its Cinderella run, it is important that now and in the future, the team uses the many outlets of communication to its advantage.

Staying relevant in the world and on social media after March Madness will be key for the Peacocks as they continue to reach new audiences and gain fans around the nation.

The Peacocks have been “smashing brackets since 2022,” but will they be in the media conversation heading into 2023?

Only time will tell.

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