Whether you’re looking for a clever self-promo, a fun team-building activity or a slam-dunk client program, March Madness can provide the inspiration you need. The annual NCAA men’s basketball tourney isn’t just fuel for office pools around the country. It’s a great model for friendly competition, as well as a good time to show appreciation to top clients and their customers.

Kirby Hasseman, CEO of Ohio-based distributor Hasseman Marketing & Communications, suggests identifying top clients and thanking them with a custom kit of basketball-themed items.

“We always talk about your top 20% of clients, because your top 20% usually is about 80% of your business,” he says. “So this time, what if you did your top 16% of clients and do a March Madness kit that includes a really cool T-shirt, maybe some custom branded shoes and a basketball or an award?”

Hasseman suggests using a real, full-size basketball as a trophy for these top tier clients – your Sweet 16, whether that’s a percentage or 16 companies.

  basketballs printed with custom message and logo

This 29.5-inch Full-Size Synthetic Leather Basketball makes a great trophy or corporate gift to thank loyal customers for their continued support. The textured surface can be printed with a message or logo – light ink colors only, and bold graphics recommended.

Galaxy Balloons / PPAI 113835, S7 / www.galacticline.com

“Whether that’s your client doing that or a self-promo,” he says, “I think that could be a slam dunk.”

Puns notwithstanding, shoot for quality with the promo products you choose, Hasseman says.

“One of the trends I really like that I’m seeing in the industry is people doing higher quality,” he says. “As my buddy Danny Rosin would say, we don’t need more brand fill. We don’t need more things that are going to go in the landfill, so if you do a T-shirt, don’t do the cheapest T-shirt you can find – do one that’s soft and has a cool message on it.”

  man wearing 3/4 sleeve baseball tee with graphic - inset showing custom label printed inside

Wow recipients with a high-quality shirt featuring a cool design or inspiring message. This Unisex 3/4 Sleeve Raglan, made in the USA of 100% ring-spun cotton, comes in six color combos (white/navy shown) and sizes XS-2X. Custom inside labeling is available in addition to the outside decoration.

T-shirt Tycoon / PPAI 547091, S1 / ttycoon.com

When you’re already asking for T-shirt sizes, asking for shoes sizes is not that big a deal, says Hasseman – but it’s a great way to get their attention.

“How often do you ask for somebody’s shoe size?” he says. “You ask for a T-shirt size a lot, maybe, but whenever anybody asks me for my shoe size, my curiosity is completely piqued.”

  custom printed sneakers with amazon logo

Walk the talk – literally – with custom printed shoes, a great way for your client’s logo to hit the streets. These Airforce custom sneakers come in sizes ranging from men’s 3.5-14 and women’s 5.5-13.

SOCK101 / PPAI 625402, S6 / www.sock101.com

Round out your basketball-themed kit with snacks recipients can enjoy while watching the big game:

  trail mix in a clear bag with basketball logo label

Seeking a healthy snack? Try the Slam Dunk Snack Pack With Energy Trail Mix, available in three sizes. Trail mix consists of raisins, banana chips, chocolate chips, cranberries, peanuts, almonds, soy nuts and sunflower seeds.

Midnite Snax / PPAI 113793, S3 / www.midnitesnax.com

  "Dunk It" coffee mug stuffed with wrapped cookie and cocoa packet

Can’t get enough of the puns? Go for the Just Dunk It Cocoa/Cookie Mug Set. The 11-oz. ceramic mug is stuffed with a hot cocoa pack and chocolate rectangle cookie. Choose from stock art or completely customize the microwaveable and dishwasher-safe mug with your client’s full-wrap imprint.

NC Custom / PPAI 111662, S7 / www.chocolateinn.com

If you or your clients are more interested in building team camaraderie or boosting relationships with your customers, March Madness-style bracket competitions are a fun way to engage. It could be anything from what to stock in the office snack cabinet to which charity to support. Surveys show that these activities have a positive impact on company culture or engagement.

It gives people something to talk about, which creates opportunities to build relationships, says Nicki Staats, director of merchandising for Massachusetts-based distributor iPROMOTEu, which invites everyone in the promo products industry to participate in their annual Dunk Fest bracket competition.

“It’s a lighthearted, fun activity,” she says. “Even those that are not sports fanatics can still take part in it. It’s just something that allows for us to build that relationship in a different way.”

If an office is going to run a bracket contest, suggests Staats, they can get mini basketball hoops with the company logo to put in their break room so employees can “just go let loose for a minute” and shoot some hoops. These can also be placed in the lobby to invite visitors to join in the fun, maybe even with a pen or piece of candy as a prize for making a basket.

  custom mini basketball hoop and ball

The custom Mini Basketball Backboard With 4-Inch Basketball comes with choice vinyl or foam basketball. Imprint the backboard with your client’s full-color company logo.

Galaxy Balloons / PPAI 113835, S7 / www.galacticline.com

  custom full-size basketball hoop and ball

Take it to the next level with a custom full-size Basketball Hoop featuring full color decoration on the backboard. Adjustable to a max rim height of 76 inches. Basketball included.

Peerless Umbrella / PPAI 112666, S10 / www.peerlessumbrella.com

While you’re at it, why not hold a contest for the most outrageous fan spirit? It could be who can wear the most sports gear, who has the best game day outfit – the possibilities are endless.

“I never turn down an opportunity to dress up,” says Staats, “so I would be all game for that.”

  tricolor face paint in applicator with logo

The compact Fanbrush Face Paint applicator makes face painting quick and easy. Made in France, this non-toxic, vegetable-based face paint conforms to all U.S. and EU requirements, stays fresh up to 24 months after opening and removes easily with soap and water. Available in 10 two-tone color combinations, plus red/white/blue (shown) and rainbow.

Jornik Manufacturing / PPAI 111065, S6 / www.jornik.com

Like Hasseman, Staats suggests building your own kit, whether for your contest winners, clients or their customers. Here are some other promo products that can add fun and flair to March Madness activities:

  water bottle with orange basketball outer skin

The vacuum-insulated 17-oz. S’well Slam Dunk Bottle features a textured basketball skin, making it a great March Madness prize. Its triple-layered construction keeps beverages cold for up to 36 hours and hot up to 18 hours. Made of food grade stainless steel with a condensation free exterior. Comes in 16 colors and textures, including soccer, football and “slam dunk” (shown).

Zing Manufacturing / PPAI 517185, S7 / www.zingmfg.com

  trio of custom designed full-color socks

Get your team on the right foot with Custom Athletic Socks. Choose six colors, with three Pantone matched colors, for your custom jacquard design on these soft, heavyweight socks made of cotton, nylon and spandex. Add a full-color hang tag or sock box to complete your custom package.

Pop! Promos / PPAI 564497, S1 / www.poppromos.com

  reversible basketball shorts

Recipients will love watching the game or working out in these Fully Sublimated Reversible Basketball Shorts. The double layered reversible design – fully sublimated with your client’s custom design – is made of lightweight moisture-wicking polyester for performance and comfort.

Hit Promotional Products / PPAI 113910, S14 / www.hitpromo.net

  hoop head basketball net hat

Crown your bracket contest winner with the Hoop Head, featuring a cotton/spandex sweatband base topped by standard basketball hoop netting. The sweatband, which comes in eight colors (black shown), can be screen printed or embroidered with your client’s message or logo. A percentage of proceeds supports organizations helping the homeless, children and veterans and in need through The Greatest Gift Catalog Ever and their partner agencies.

alphabroder|Prime Line / PPAI 156993, S16 / www.alphabroder.com