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The Marketing Behind March Madness

By: Natalie Downey

The March Madness Tournament continues to be one of the best-marketed and most profitable events for the NCAA.

Even if you don’t follow basketball, the slogans “Sweet Sixteen”, “Elite Eight”, and “Final Four” are probably familiar to you. The use of these slogans has contributed to the wide-spread popularity of the tournament.

The largest part of the tournament does not involve watching the games but instead making brackets. In 2019, 70 million brackets were made, with only 10.5 million of those people watching the games. In 2021, another 47 million Americans planned on making bets on the tournament, with 36.7 million planning to fill out a bracket.

Brackets are one of the main reasons why March Madness gets an incredible amount of exposure and involvement. When companies are looking to advertise during the tournament season, it is vital to keep in mind that viewers might also have their brackets or pools pulled up on another screen. Roughly 70% of viewers are on a second screen when watching TV.

There is a very large social media presence surrounding the tournament. March Madness has accounts on both Facebook and Twitter, with each account having around 1.4 million followers. A quick Google search will also yield around 239 million results just about the tournament.

Fans are everywhere, and they’re loyal. Teams have whole student bodies supporting them as they continue through the tournament, which allows companies to reach a wide-spread audience through their advertisements.

Companies looking to advertise during March Madness tend to focus on the men’s tournament. Though the men’s tournament tends to get a lot more viewers, advertising during women’s games allows companies to target their ads to a specific audience.

When the NCAA sells rights, they are selling rights to all 90 NCAA Championships. This means both men’s and women’s. From here it is up to the NCAA’s corporate partners on where they spend their money and allocate their resources.

The NCAA made March Madness more than just a tournament, they made it into a brand. By creating catchy slogans (Sweet Sixteen, Elite Eight, Final Four) and leveraging marketing opportunities, they have made the event into something that fans and non-fans interact with and will remember.

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