March Madness marketing stats & viewership trends
2018 Update: The NCAA dominates the month of March with its 68-team, single-elimination basketball tournament. And March Madness isn’t just huge for sports fans. Marketers from all industries use this highly-televised event as an avenue for brand visibility. The event gets bigger each year and if 2017’s numbers are any indication, this year’s NCAA Tournament is sure to be memorable for fans, and impactful for brands.
In 2017, we saw the most amount of cross-channel viewership, as fans watched on TV, streamed on NCAA March Madness Live, and engaged through social channels. According to the NCAA, live game coverage on Sunday, March 19, 2017 averaged 11.9 million viewers, up 34% from the previous year. This made it the most-watched first Sunday in 24 years! In addition, March Madness Live (MML) brought in 69.1 million live streams. As you can see, this is a great opportunity for companies to get their brand in front of millions and millions of viewers.
Cross-device marketing is key for events like the NCAA Tournament, which are consumed on a number of platforms. Our infographic, Marketing March Madness, shares consumption patterns, who’s watching, and who the big advertisers are. Learn more below.
2017 Update: The Super Bowl has come and gone, and we still have a good eight months before the World Series comes around. Right now, March Madness is upon us… and it’s the next big chance for marketers to get their brands in front of sports fans with big viewership numbers.
March Madness tends to draw in some staggering crowds. The 2016 North Carolina vs. Villanova final game racked up 17.8 million live viewers, with that number hitting 22.3 million in time for Villanova’s buzzer-beating victory. Amazingly, these numbers are actually down 37% from viewership for the 2015 championship that pitted the Duke Blue Devils against the Wisconsin Badgers.
Part of the reason for this decline in March Madness viewership is that the crowds adapted the way that they consumed March Madness content.
In 2016, March Madness saw over 1.1 million hours of live video consumption across 3.4 million live video streams, up 16% from the year before. There were 56 million impressions generated across March Madness Facebook and Twitter accounts, too… an amazing 112% increase from 2015. Over 8 million video views were racked up across social media, a 5x increase from the year before.
Even with viewing trends shifting, there’s still a huge opportunity for March Madness marketing.
Nabisco saw over 54,000 engagements in 2016, Yum! Brands (48,867), LG (35,169), The Coca-Cola Company (34,812) and Buffalo Wild Wings (25,421) rounded out the top five. In fact, March Madness is such an obsession with fans that estimates suggest that this year’s series could result in companies losing as much as $2.1 billion to unproductive workers following the games and updating their brackets.
No wonder CBS and Turner Sports paid $8.8 billion to extend their broadcast rights eight more years to 2032!
2016 Original Post
With the Super Bowl behind us and the World Series a season away, March Madness is the next big viewership opportunity for marketers to create a huge splash for their brands with sports fans.
Last year’s March Madness marketing stats were staggering – 126 brands spent $1.163 billion on 30-second television spots that averaged $1.55 million each during March Madness. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The March Madness marketing season is a huge opportunity for cross-device advertising, and this year’s March Madness viewership is projected to be accessing even more content away from the television.
March Madness Trends
Although March Madness trends show that it isn’t the most popular sporting event of the year, the more than 11 million viewers it attracted last year make March Madness a perfect marketing vehicle for brand messaging to a massive audience.
It’s also an excellent laboratory in which to experiment with a broader range of multi-channel messages. Currently, 96 percent of sports fans (and March Madness viewership) are glued to the television, but 68 percent also look for information about sports online, 52 percent attend games and live events, 50 percent turn to print for updates about their favorite teams, 42 percent are checking in through mobile, 41 percent tune in to games on their radios and 35 percent Tweet and Share their way through the season on social media.
2016’s projected March Madness consumption isn’t going to look a lot different than the overall picture of sports fans’ viewing patterns. People are still interested in accessing their favorite March Madness teams and games from wherever they happen to be: television is expected to net about 10.8 million viewers, desktops 7.3 million, Smartphones 3.8 million and tablets 2.5 million. Last year, March Madness broke its own records for both average viewers and live video streams – viewers consumed over 17.8 million hours of streaming live video content from over 80.7 million streams.
The March Madness Marketing Landscape
March Madness stats and trends are useful, to a point, but not every business will be a good fit for this expensive marketing opportunity.
Last year, the top five categories in March Madness television advertisements were automotive, financial services, insurance, restaurants and telecom. AT&T led in ad spend with a $56.2 million investment, followed by Buick ($53.5 million), Capital One ($37.1 million), Southwest Airlines ($33.5 million), Samsung ($30.3 million), Infiniti ($28.1 million), Coca-Cola ($27.5 million), Allstate ($26.5 million), UPS ($23.8 million) and Geico ($23.4 million).
Digital ad spend by device in 2015 is another factor to consider, with $30.4 billion total spent to reach mobile devices and $27.6 billion devoted to March Madness marketing via desktop. Those sports fans who choose mobile devices for their sports-watching (nearly half, at 42 percent), unlike those who watch March Madness on television, have traditionally been much more difficult for marketers to reach.
Preparing Your Brand For March Madness Marketing
If you’re considering bumping your brand image with some March Madness marketing, there are a few very important items to consider. First, your audience is a literal moving target, so you’ll want to plan a marketing strategy that addresses traditional media as well as social media and mobile devices. Second, your marketing across all these platforms should be more or less consistent. If you’re delivering one message via social media and another on television, you may confuse your market rather than delight them.
Each ad design should be platform-specific, however. Many advertisements that convert effectively on television or radio won’t translate well to social platforms or YouTube. Each platform your brand is considering for March Madness marketing will need its own subplan to ensure that your approach is a good fit for the medium. For example, YouTube ads must grab attention in the first five seconds or viewers may skip the ad, where a similar television spot has more time to build to a crescendo.
A Good Opportunity For The Right Brands
March Madness is a very special opportunity for brands that are looking to expand their reach with sports enthusiasts. The cross-platform viewership potential of this event is massive, if marketers and brands are prepared for the increasingly large undertaking it can be to advertise effectively during March Madness.