By Barry Janoff
March 11, 2017: When it comes to March, there is no shortage of Madness and no skimping on marketing.
With the 2017 NCAA Div. I Basketball Tournament now upon us, teams, players, conferences and coaches are positioning themselves to claim the top prize.
And so, too, are marketers and sponsors, who are positioning themselves to get maximum exposure before a national audience of fans and consumers over the three weeks between Selection Sunday (March 12), the First Four (March 14-15), the Final Four (April 1) and the Championship Game (April 3).
Last year, marketing spend on national TV during NCAA March Madness reached a record $1.24 billion, "making it one of the most valuable franchises in televised sports," according to research and consulting firm Kantar Media, NY.
That figure was up from $1.18 billion in 2015, $1.13 billion in 2014, $1.12 billion in 2013, and $1.1 billion in 2012, the first time the total topped $1 billion.
Considering that during the past few years, ad spend has been growing at 2%-5% annually, industry analysts anticipate a new record spend will be set this year, as well.
"The three-week event offers brands a center-stage platform for integrating themselves into the tournament through paid advertisements in offline and online channels, social media conversations, branded placements and experiential events," according to Kantar Media.
Live TV broadcasts of all games will be spread across CBS and Turner Sports' TBS, TNT and truTV networks via a 14-year, $10.8 billion signed in 2014, which was extend through 2032 via an $8.8 billion deal signed in 2016.
Via a yearly alternating plan, CBS this year has exclusive coverage of the Final Four and Championship Game, being played in the University of Phoenix Stadium.
Each year 90-95 different companies purchase air time in the basketball tournament, but "the Top Ten consistently account for more than one-third of total spending," according to Kantar Media.
In 2016, the total spend of the Top Ten was $464 million for 2,268 spots.
General Motors was the leading spender, $493 million for 404 spots aired. AT&T was second, an $80 million spend for 448 spots.
The Top Ten last year also included Coca-Coca ($47 million spend, 195 spots aired), Capital One ($46 million, 199 spots), Volkswagen ($39 million, 181 spots), Berkshire Hathaway ($38 million, 177 spots), Southwest Airlines ($35 million, 162 spots), Anheuser-Busch ($31 million, 203 spots), Nissan ($28 million, 126 spots) and Unilever ($27 million, 173 spots).
NCAA Corporate Champions are AT&T, Capital One and Coca-Cola.
NCAA Corporate Partners are Allstate, Amazon Echo, Buffalo Wild Wings, Buick (General Motors), Enterprise, Infiniti, Lowe’s, LG, Marriott, Nabisco, Northwestern Mutual, Pizza Hut, Reese’s (Hershey), Unilever and Wendy’s.
The top five categories spent $766.1 million during the NCAA Div. I Men’s tournament.
Automotive had 11 companies that spent more than $266 million, led by Buick, Audi, Infiniti and BMW.
Eight telecom companies spent just of $150 million, led by AT&T, Samsung and Apple.
Nine financial services firms spent $128.1 million, topped by Capital One, Northwestern Mutual and Navy Federal Credit.
The restaurant category had 11 brands that spent $126 million, including Taco Bell, Burger King, Buffalo Wild Wings and Subway.
First-year partner Wendy’s, which replaced Burger King as the NCAA’s official QSR partner, has been ramping up its March Madness activation and likely will make this list next year.
Insurance has six companies that spent 496 million, led by Geico, Allstate, State Farm and Nationwide.
Although the NCAA Tournament goes for three weeks, some marketers focus their spend and ad campaigns during the first week, when all the teams are in play and fans who follow specific schools are most likely to be tune into national broadcasts.
According to Kantar Media, of the 95 different marketers who bought national airtime during the 2016 event, 61 had media buys in all three weeks and 24 purchased air time either during the period between the Sweet 16 and the title game or just during the Final Four weekend and
But ten of them ran spots only during the first week of the event. However, "Several of the early departartures aired comparatively large schedules and had a notable share of voice during their one week of participation," per Kantar Media.
"The NCAA men’s basketball tournament is consistently the second largest post-season sports franchise, trailing only the NFL playoffs."
Among them, Land Rover spent $6.5 million for 31 spots, McDonald’s spent $5.2 million for 33 spots, Miller Beer $4.9 million for 51 spots, Vanda Pharmaceuticals spent $3 million for 32 spots and PNC Financial Services spent $2.7 million for 16 spots during the first week.
In terms of national TV ad spend, "The NCAA men’s basketball tournament is consistently the second largest post-season sports franchise, trailing only the NFL playoffs," according to Kantar Media.
The NFL post-season reaches its level with just 11 televised games, including the Super Bowl, while the college basketball tournament has 67 game broadcasts.
"Ad revenue for the 2016 NBA and MLB post-seasons each got a boost from championship series featuring compelling match-ups (Cleveland Cavaliers-Golden State Warriors and Chicago Cubs-Cleveland Indians, respectively) that went the maximum seven games," observed Kantar.
National TV ad spend by marketers for the NFL during the recent post-season, including Super Bowl LI, was $1.3 billion, up from $1.25 billion in 2015.
The NBA playoffs (April-June) saw just over $1 billion in ad spend (up from $944 million). MLB's post-season (September-October) hit $569 million (up from $415 million).
NCAA college football bowl games (December-January) reached $358 million (up from $314 million).
As an integrated complement to their paid media advertising on linear TV and digital platforms, Kantar Media said that "many NCAA sponsors also seek to capture and convert consumers through social media campaigns tied to the basketball tournament."
In addtion, all of the games are streamed online through the branded March Madness Live service. People can access ad-supported video casts, real-time scores, statistics and other related content through Web browsers, mobile apps and over-the-top services.
According to Turner Sports, which manages March Madness Live, the 2016 tournament generated a record 18.1 million hours of live video consumption.
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