The Potential Profits of March Madness: How Advertisers are Using Celebrities to Win Big

marchmadness_bg3-1024x616With the Final Four remaining the king of nationally televised basketball events, the NCAA continues to rake in the cash.

It is not the simplest task to become ingrained in popular culture, but the minds behind the NCAA Tournament have masterfully made it appear so.

Since they first aired on TV in 1969, the post-season college basketball games have grown in popularity, though it wasn’t until CBS partnered with Turner in 2011 that the tournament exploded in profitability. Between CBS and Turner’s channels, all 67 of the games air nationally. That translates directly to a huge bump in revenue.

Today, March Madness reigns only behind the Super Bowl among the biggest annual sports events. There are no prerequisites for participation – anyone can create a bracket, and as many as 60 million Americans do.

Viewership numbers are nowhere near that of the Super Bowl, but they don’t need to be. Last year’s championship game was watched by a total of 26.1 million people. This was more than the peak of the 2017 NBA Finals and barely less than the 2017 College Football Championship. In all three cases annual viewership is on the rise, but nothing compares to the revenue gains March Madness has seen.

With Turner Sports preparing to broadcast the Final Four games in virtual reality and total ad revenue expected to rise as high as $1.3 billion, the future of the tournament is incredibly bright.

As is always the case, this future does lie in the hands of the advertisers, but with growing numbers of eyeballs gluing themselves to the TV and related mobile content, the advertisers too are arriving in droves.

Perennial sponsorship partners and this year’s official NCAA corporate champions, AT&T, Capital One, and Coca-Cola, have all returned with tens of millions to spend, but it is the ads featuring athletic stars that get the most bang for their buck.

From Turner’s incorporation of U2, to NCAA’s own ad starring Jerry Rice, wise decisions were made to attract the most attention. Capital One scored big with a string of comedic spots starring Samuel L. Jackson, Spike Lee, and Charles Barkley too. Sonic hired the duo of Ellie Kemper and Jane Krakowski for their March commercials, which shakes up their traditional spokespeople for the tournament.

Those who made the wise choice to highlight celebrities in their ads will reap the benefits this year, but with ample proof for the direction they should take, it’s up to next year’s advertisers to follow the trend.

The fans watch the games to see the amateurs perform their best, but it’s the trusted, beloved celebrities that remain constant throughout the tournament. The more companies tap into their potential, the more front and center the advertisements will be.

photo credit: www.brianhartz.com

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