With 67 games aired on national TV, the NCAA has only just begun 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 record 28.3 million people. This was more than both the last game of the 2015 NBA Finals and the 2016 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 basketball stars that get the most bang for their buck.
From AT&T’s commercial featuring Kenny Smith to NCAA’s own ad starring Charles Barkley, wise decisions were made to attract the most attention. Capital One scored big with a string of commercials starring Samuel L. Jackson, Spike Lee, and Charles Barkley too, and even Lowe’s called on Coach John Thompson III for a comedic spot. Buick hired actor Brad Schmidt for their commercial, which also introduced a special deal they are offering during March Madness. Budweiser even adapted their Super Bowl ad to air one dedicated to the tournament, pairing it with a song by Baauer.
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