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Selling the Madness

The excitement surrounding the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament (March Madness!) extends far beyond the tightly packed and brightly lit basketball courts. This year, the tournament has entranced advertisers, with all advertising for the event completely sold out. Tremendous demand for advertising space confirms the huge popularity and reach of March Madness among viewers, making it a fantastic opportunity for brands to showcase products and services to a wider audience.

This year’s March Madness shattered previous records for advertising sales, with all available ad slots sold out well in advance of the event. Half of those slots sold as early as last fall. This surge in ad sales can be attributed to the tournament’s large and dedicated viewership, as well as the unique marketing opportunities it offers to advertisers. The tournament’s format of multiple games played across several weeks gives advertisers a great opportunity to reach audiences throughout the event.

This year’s ads are represented by diverse industries from insurance to auto, technology to food and beverage. The NCAA official corporate partnership program includes big brands that happen to account for nearly half of the revenue. Across the 67 games scheduled for the event, it is estimated that CBS Sports and TNT Sports will generate more than $1 billion in ad revenue. (Not far off from last year’s estimated $968.6 million in sales.) It is worth noting that sports betting companies were locked out of the tournament.

The women’s tournament is also making an impact with 87 advertisers spread across 49 distinctly different categories. The rising popularity of the women’s game (thank you Caitlin Clark), also helped to sell a significant share of ads well before the first whistle blew.

Advertising during sports broadcasting, especially during high-profile events like March Madness, offers real advantages for brands looking to connect with consumers. Sports broadcasts are known to attract large audiences, including viewers who don’t usually tune in for regular season games. This broad reach allows advertisers to target a wide range of demographics and maximize the impact of advertising campaigns.

Another advantage of sports broadcasts is the seemingly captive audience, because no one wants to change channels or skip advertisements and miss the play of the game or the great ad. This kind of attention can lead to increased brand recall and consumer engagement, making sports broadcasting a highly effective platform for advertising.

Sports fans in general are a passionate demographic for advertisers looking for a receptive audience that is quite likely to retain brand messaging. The opportunity to connect on an emotional level with fans, repeatedly through the season, makes sports advertisements a slam dunk for conversion. Some of the options to build brand awareness in sports advertising include:

  • TV, streaming, and digital advertising
  • Sponsorships
  • In-stadium advertising
  • Athlete endorsements
  • Experiential marketing

The 2024 March Madness tournament has proven to be a hotbed for advertisers, breaking records and harnessing larger audiences and greater reach for both the men’s and women’s games. And for all those advertisers that missed out on this year’s tournament, don’t worry, the bidding for 2025 will start again soon this fall.