March Madness is a huge business and it doesn’t take much to find free-to-enter contests that you can sign up and join. Now, the obvious ones are always available, including the challenges offered by the likes of CBS, ESPN, and Yahoo. But there are other ways to get into the hysteria of the tournament without having to put up some money in the process. Let’s start with the three sports websites.
Of the three, Yahoo’s the only one that has guaranteed a monetary prize to the best overall bracket. Co-sponsored with Lexus, Yahoo is hosting Tourney Pick’em for two consecutive years. The winner of the Yahoo ”Best Bracket” contest gets $50,000, which will be determined by a completely convoluted and incredibly complicated formula that tacks on different points depending of the correct picks made in any round. I’m not going to begin to try to understand how it works, but for those interested in signing up, only US residents are allowed to play and even then, you’ll have to be 18 in most states and 19 in both Alabama and Nebraska.
If you’re not into cash prizes and prefer something a little more in kind, CBS’ annual Free Bracket Challenge. It doesn’t guarantee a prize for a perfect bracket, but it does reward participants who are among the top 10% of eligible point scorers with a “grand prize” that includes four tickets to the 2017 Final Four and $6,000 to help cover the cost of attending next year’s tournament. The caveat here is that you don’t need to have the best bracket to win. Just get into the aforementioned top 10% and, well, pray that your number is called. CBS’ bracket challenge is available to those based in the US but unlike Yahoo and ESPN, it is also open to people from Puerto Rico and Canada (excluding Quebec).
Then we get to ESPN, which, together with Allstate as well as new sponsors Honda and Microsoft, is dangling a prize package valued at 19,950. The package includes one trip for two to the 2016 Maui Jim Maui Invitational, airfare and accommodation and a $10,000 Amazon.com Gift Card. Total ARV: $19,950.00. It’s worth noting that the prize winner must be able to travel to Hawaii from November 19-24, 2016. Inability of the winner to travel on those dates will result in forfeiture of the grand prize. It’s a little more difficult field to enter compared to CBS, but you have to admit that the package is a little more alluring than CBS’ offer. Entrants for the ESPN challenge must also be based in the US and must be 18 years and above to join.
The March Madness challenges being offered by Yahoo, CBS, and ESPN are just three of the many challenges being offered these days. If you don’t find any of them appealing, you can still go through the daily fantasy sports route. The guys over at FanDuel and DraftKings have their own challenges geared towards the tournament.
This year, Fanduel has improved its 2016 March Madness Bracket contest, which is based on the win-and-advance concept of the tournament itself. Entry to the Fanduel’s “Survive the Madness” costs $100 but should you win, you get the opportunity to score $50,000 in first place money. That’s a big chunk of the $300,000 total pot FanDuel is promising and you don’t even have to win the tournament to win some cash. Just advance to the third round and a prize will come your way.
On the other hand, DraftKings is touting its “March Mania,” a bracket-style tournament that comes with a first prize of $50,000 culled from a total pool amounting to $250,000.
And you’re in luck if you are a Berkshire Hathaway employee, as its CEO Warren Buffet is running a pretty big March Madness pool this year, exclusively for its 300,000 employees. Earlier this month, Warren announced his Ultimate Office Bracket Contest, which promises $100,000 to any employee with the most correct picks through this year’s Sweet 16.
But that’s not it. If an employee manages to correctly pick all the games in first two rounds of this year’s NCAA basketball tournament, they’ll take home $1 million. A year. For the rest of their lives.
Whichever challenge you sign up for, best be sure that you come ready for the unexpected. That, after all, is what March Madness is all about.