Direct Response Marketing Agency - Chief Media

March Madness Advertising by the Numbers

When it comes to sports, March Madness is another one of the most dominant events of the year for gambling, advertising spends, and viewer engagement. So much so that the ‘Madness’ moniker seems appropriate when considering the key metrics and opportunities afforded to the brands and vendors that show up to take a shot on the athletic titan’s advertising court.

Reported ratings averaged 10.5 million viewers in 2019, an 8% increase year over year, and the final game averaged 19.6 million viewers. According to Kantar Media, March Madness goes toe-to-toe with the NFL in terms of advertising dollars, with $1.3 billion of ad spend to the NFL’s $1.6 billion in 2019, and single thirty-second blocks of ad time being known to potentially cost upwards of a million dollars during games in the late stages of the tournament.

2019 Proved To Be Powerful

While some concerns were raised in the wake of disappointing viewing figures in regard to the over-saturation of advertisements during 2018 March Madness, 2019 regardless proved to be a powerful year for viewership and advertising during the event., a company that specializes in advertising measurement and attribution for TV, claimed that 155 brands (not including network partners or the NCAA itself) appeared during the entire NCAA Tournament.

These brands collectively aired 363 unique spots over 5,252 airings, clocking just over six solid days of screen time for advertisements over the course of the event! An estimated $932.7 million was spent on advertising across all the live games, and advertisers were rewarded for this investment with over 24 billion total impressions. Demographics for tournament viewers in 2019 were skewed 71.6% age 35 or older, and nearly 61% male, with the largest ad ventures made by companies wanting to reach that audience. AT&T was the biggest advertiser overall, but by industry it was the automotive and insurance companies that beat the bracket for spend.

Some brands even went as far as to have creative ready for specific game occurrences, such as overtime, hoping to capitalize on the high engagement caused by exciting and high-stakes moments, and many also used social video successfully during the event, though many of the highest-impression content pieces had either celebrity presence or rights to game and locker room footage.

The Numbers Don’t Lie

There are a few metrics that support the idea that viewers are personally more engaged in March Madness than in other sporting events. One of these, and perhaps the closest to a causal factor, is gambling. Even by conservative estimates, 40 million American’s are expected to take part in predicting tournament results, many of them creating two separate brackets, resulting in over 70 million completed brackets.

While the $1.3 billion of ad spend during March Madness is doubtless impressive, it is nowhere near as staggering as the wagers of the viewing public, which amount to some $10.4 billion according to a report by WalletHub. That is twice as much as is wagered during the Super Bowl, and is enough of an incentive to attract even non-sports fans to make a bracket and follow the matches.

Crowd Surfing Cav Man | ESPN's College GameDay at the University of Virginia | February 2016 | Charlottesville, VA
March Madness extends beyond rabid fan bases to casual watchers who are engaged either by friends or co-workers.

Another compelling piece of data on the personal investment viewers have in the tournament is its impact on office performance. One survey found that March Madness was comparable to texting and Facebook when it comes to distractions in the workplace, and while the workers themselves believe that March Madness is good for morale, by some estimates corporations incurred $6.3 billion in losses in 2017 due to lost productivity on the part of workers tuning in to March Madness.

In 2019, some estimates of that number were as high as $13.3 billion. What all this means for advertisers is that just about everyone has some skin in the game, making them more engaged in the tournament and, consequently, the advertising media that comes with it. Whether your play is small-scale social or to hang on the court with some of the biggest advertisers in the country, you can count on March Madness to be a solid bet for a long time to come.

The NCAA is Definitely Considered Trendy

The NCAA itself celebrated 2019 as a banner year across viewership platforms, reporting that 2019 championship game television broadcasts beat the previous year’s ratings by 20% and overall television coverage was up 11% compared to the previous year. If this resurgence in television performance weren’t enough, the NCAA has additionally proven adept at keeping up with shifts in how people consume media, setting all-time tournament records with over 100 million live stream viewers and over 24 million live hours consumed through their streaming platform!

An increased focus on social media presence for the tournament also yielded a 94% increase in engagements year-over-year across Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, with videos across the three platforms generating over 135 million views.

Illinois college basketball fans
Whether sharing content in-person or giving thoughts to the game, sports are consumed increasingly across multiple devices.

March Madness Gains

The Final Four and championship games generated the biggest gains, with over $308 million in revenue being generated by the last seven games, 47% of the total for the tournament. During the round of 32, each game window on average generated $7.9 million. Such massive spending does not appear to be going anywhere, as it is believed by multiple organizations that the tournament is still going to be able to experience ad revenue growth moving forward.

So, what are you waiting for? Start thinking of your March madness media campaign ASAP! Contact us to get started today.