How Brands Cash In On March Madness

The Madness of March. Many sports fans claim the only thing that gets them through the tedious month of March, when spring is so close you can taste it, is the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, better known as March Madness. College basketball fans aren’t the only ones who get excited for the tournament, however. Due to the popularity of office brackets, even the most casual sports fan can get swept up in the excitement, in the hopes of bragging rights and a little extra cash. ESPN.com reports an estimated 70 million brackets were filled out in 2017, to a total of $10.4 billion overall in bets. Brands know they have an opportunity to reach a large audience, and spend the month engaging consumers via social media and advertising.

According to Kantar Media, $1.285 billion in ad revenue was generated during last year’s March Madness tournament, a 3.3% increase from 2016. Additionally, the 2017 NCAA Tournament was the most-watched in 24 years, with an average of 9,325,000 million viewers, up 10% from 2016 (8,513,000). With nearly one-third of the U.S. television audience watching at least six minutes of the tournament, it is a good bet for brands looking to reach a broad audience.

Companies pay big money to attach their names to the tournament, and Coca-Cola, Capital One, and AT&T are the three corporate “champion” sponsors this year, with an additional fourteen corporate sponsors. NCAA officials don’t disclose how much they receive for the partnerships, but according to marketing researchers, March Madness ranks with the Super Bowl, Olympics, and World Cup as one of the most valuable events in sports, due to the audience it attracts—younger males, who are traditionally a harder market to reach.

Brands like Wendy’s, Buffalo Wild Wings and Powerade are utilizing the tournament by running promotions linked to March Madness. Wendy’s is running an interactive bracket on their social channels, with fans able to earn rewards and exclusive offers each week. Buffalo Wild Wings has billed itself the “Official Hangout for NCAA March Madness” and unveiled a variety of in-restaurant, online and on-site Final Four activations designed to reward fans. Powerade, who is the Official Sports Drink of the NCAA, debuted a new campaign, “That’s Some Kind of Power,” during the first four March Madness games. The campaign has evolved throughout the month with relevant advertisements and activations around iconic sporting events.

Not everyone makes money during March Madness, however. March Madness invades many workplaces, causing major distractions. According to WalletHub, unproductivity during March Madness amounted to an estimated $6.3 billion in corporate losses in 2017. In a survey of more than 400 managers and human resources specialists conducted by Seyfarth Shaw at Work, 30% said it was a major diversion at their office, with workers spending an average of 25.5 minutes per day monitoring the games.

Whether you’re an avid fan, or just hoping to make some money in your office bracket, advertisers are happy you’re tuning in.

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