It is about that time of year again. When people become glued to their televisions, phones and tablets, filling out brackets, checking scores, and spending more time watching and following basketball in three weeks than they do the entire year. According to a recent report from Kantar Media, the 2012 NCAA Division 1 Men’s Basketball Tournament generated more than $1 billion in tournament advertising sales revenue for the first time. Which makes sense considering March Madness has become the most alluring and action-packed three weeks in sports.
Unlike March Madness, the Super Bowl is followed and watched for the commercials being played almost as much as it is for the actual game of football. When it comes to March Madness, most people cannot remember their favorite, let alone any, commercials that are being played during the game(s). However, despite this fact, the numbers from March Madness have surpassed the numbers of pro-football ($976.3 million), along with the combined post-season total for the NBA ($536.9 million), MLB ($354.1) and the NHL ($101.1 million). The Super Bowl is still the main target for marketers and advertisers with an average $3.8 million spent on a 30-second slot. However, March Madness is not far behind and continues to get closer to the top.
The price of an advertising slot in March Madness games increases as the tournament goes on and fewer games are being played. According to Kantar Media, the beginning rounds of last year’s tournament were $100,000, for the Sweet 16 games they were $350,000 and for the Final Four games they were $700,000. To top it off, during the national championship game between Kentucky and Kansas last year, companies spent an average $1.34 million for a 30-second slot. Last year, eighty to eighty-five companies advertised during March Madness with the top ten companies making up over a third of the total television advertising spent. That is a large number of companies considering that is over 30% of the total companies (266) that have marketed during March Madness in the last decade. The four companies that spent the most on advertising throughout the 2012 tournament were General Motors ($80.3 million), AT&T ($54.2), Anheuser-Bush ($31.9) and Coca-Cola ($31.7).
With tournament brackets done and more games quickly approaching, it will be the Final Four weekend of April 6-8 before we know it. CBS and the Turner Broadcasting Network (TBS, TNT and truTV) will be covering the games for the third year in a row. As in the previous couple of years fans will also be able to follow the games and the tournament via computers, smartphones and tablets with ad-sponsored commercials. This is a huge opportunity for marketers because advertising continues to go beyond just television media. Along with different media outlets to follow the games, fans will also be able to keep up with the tournament via social media sites and sponsored brackets.
It is unknown whether March Madness will surpass the Super Bowl when it comes to advertising. The strategies of having more media outlets and increasing the price of advertising as the tournament goes on could attract even more viewers than before, especially to the later rounds of the tournament. On the other hand, March Madness could continue to be what it has always been about. The chance for any team to win the national title, for underdogs to come through in the final moment, for fans to have the winning bracket and for all of those watching to have an enchanting three weeks of basketball.