Advertising and the Super Bowl are nearly synonymous with one another. In fact, many people tuning in for television’s biggest annual event simply say, “I’m only watching for the commercials.” Our favorite brands recognize this, hence the $5 million price tag for a 30-second spot. But not all brands have the budget for that kind of exposure. Enter the NCAA Tournament. This annual event gives a second chance to those brands that missed out on the year’s Super Bowl to flex their creative muscles.
While viewership of a single game, the national championship game included, during March Madness will never match that of the Super Bowl, the NCAA Basketball Tournament has still become a formidable foe in matching the Super Bowl reputation as the biggest sporting event on television over the course of three weeks. According to CNN, the 2015 NCAA Tournament as a whole brought in $1.07 billion in ad revenue. But the differences between the NCAA Tournament and the Super Bowl aren’t only found in the numbers, but in the type of opportunities as well. Here’s why March Madness may be more advantageous for advertisers who didn’t take part in the Super Bowl:
If brands have a particular message that they went to get out and reinforce, the NCAA Tournament would be the ideal time to do it. With 68 games televised over the course of a few weeks, as opposed to only 11 games during the NFL playoffs, the audience has more chances to view a brand’s ad. This not only reinforces a message, but helps brand uplift. To put it in perspective, the 2015 Tournament averaged 10.5 million viewers per game, the highest average in 22 years, according to the NCAA. It’s also important to note that beer brands don’t advertise as heavily during the NCAA Tournament, the result of a policy that prohibits a sponsor partnership with the NCAA. This opens up additional opportunities for technology and automotive brands like AT&T and Buick to become major advertising players, as opposed to a brand like Budweiser that typically is one of the marquee advertisers of the Super Bowl.
While the audience for the Super Bowl is as diverse as it gets, the audience typically tuning into the NCAA Tournament games may make more sense for some brands to target. According to Forbes, 42% of all adults who watch the tournament on television are between the ages of 25 and 54, while being typically higher income earning individuals. This particular audience is extremely attractive for many brands. For example, Dove Men + Care has been noted for its advertising campaigns targeting this audience during the NCAA Tournament.
Since most of the ad revenue is a result of television spots, it is very easy to forget the digital marketing opportunities, as well. The NCAA Tournament offers advertisers many opportunities to reach consumers through digital platforms. Since all of the games are streamed online, fans can access ad-supported video casts, real-time scores, statistics and other related content on their PCs, tablets or smartphones. With millions of live video streams taking place, advertisers have leveraged the popularity of online viewing by putting a larger focus on digital ads. Advertisers have also taken advantage of the growing online community built around the NCAA Tournament. For example, Quicken Loans sponsored a “Billion Dollar Bracket Challenge” in partnership with Yahoo Sports, offering a $1 billion prize to anyone who submits a perfect bracket.
The NCAA Tournament has a huge following. And while it may never become as big as or bigger than the Super Bowl in terms of ad revenue potential, it does offer unique opportunities for brands to get their messages out. Like the mindset of millions of fans who fill out their brackets each year, advertisers need to determine which match up gives them a better chance to win.