Rising Advertising Spend Lets March Madness Marketers Play In Billionaire Club
Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 08:20AM
NYSportsJournalism.com in Final Four, Kantar Media, March Madness, March Madness, NCAA, sports marketing

By Barry Janoff

March 11, 2014: The NCAA Div. I Men's Basketball Tournament comes with several other names, including March Madness, The Big Dance, Sweet 16 and Final Four.

Considering the amount of money that marketers are putting into marketing and activations, there is another moniker that can join the list: The Big Spend.

From 2004-2013, the NCAA men’s basketball tournament has generated nearly $6.9 billion in national TV ad spend from 269 different marketers.

Annual ad spend has nearly tripled since 2004, when it was slightly over $450,000, to last year's all-time high of $1.15 billion. That figure was up 3.8% from the prior year and was the second consecutive season that March Madness annual ad spend topped $1.1 billion, according to a just-released study from marketing and research firm Kantar Media, NY.

In fact, the NCAA men’s basketball tournament tops the NFL in post-season national TV ad revenue, and also places ahead of the NBA, MLB and NHL post-season periods from 2013.

The NFL post-season (January-February 2014) was $1.1 billion, NBA post-season national TV ad revenue was $929,000, MLB (September-October) was $592,000 and the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs (April-June) were $124,000, per Kantar. That includes pre- in-game and post-game programming.

“March Madness is a marquee sports franchise and it‘s an attractive opportunity for marketers to connect with consumers over a three-week period via multiple touch points including linear TV, online, social media and in-store,”  Jon Swallen, chief research officer for Kantar Media, said in a statement. “It’s an ideal event for integrated programs and when used correctly it can be a powerful vehicle for brands.”

This year's tournament begins with the first round on March 18-19 and concludes with the Final Four, April 4 and April 7, in AT&T Stadium, home of the NFL's Dallas Cowboys, in North Texas.

For the fourth year of their co-production, Turner Sports and CBS Sports will provide live coverage of all 67 games across four networks: CBS and Turner's TBS, TNT and truTV. For the first time, both semifinal games on April 5 will air live across the three Turner networks.

CBS has the exclusive broadcast for the national championship game on April 7.

The NFL still leads in 30-second ad spend, which hovered around $4 million for Super Bowl XLVIII on Fox.

Still, NCAA March Madness set a high of $1.4 million for a 30-second spot in 2013. It was $1.3 million in 2012 and $1.2 million in 2010 and 2011.

"March Madness is a marquee franchise and an attractive opportunity for marketers to connect with consumers over a three-week period via multiple touch points."

In 2013, the top ten advertisers spent a total of $427.3 million, according to Kantar.

General Motors led with $80.7 million in spend, followed by AT&T ($70 million), Anheuser-Busch ($38.8 million), Coca-Cola ($37 million), Capital One ($36.8 million), Unilever ($34.9 million), Yum! Brands ($33.6 million), Southwest Airlines ($33.3 million), Lowes ($31.5 million) and Nissan ($30.7 million).

GM, AT&T, Coca-Cola, Capital One, Unilever, Lowes and Nissan are official NCAA partners.

Among the other marketers that spent big during the Big Dance in 2013 were Infiniti ($30.6 million), UPS ($22.4 million), Northwestern Mutual ($21.9 million), Buffalo Wild Wings ($16.2 million), Transamerica ($13.8 million), Autotrader.com ($10.4 million) and LG Electronics ($10.3 million).

In 2013, ad spending from the five largest categories was $668 million and accounted for 58% of total ad revenue. Auto makers (led by GM, Infiniti and Mercedes) topped the list with $211.1 million in spend.

The Top Five also included telecom (AT&T, DirecTV and Blackberry) at $130.7 million, financial serves (Capital One, Transamerica, Quicken Loans and Fidelity) at $129.5 million, restaurants (Buffalo Wild Wings, Taco Bell, Subway and Pizza Hut) at $112.4 million and insurance (Allstate, Northwestern, Liberty Mutual) at $84.3 million.

Kantar also focused on the fact that, in addition to paid spots during TV coverage, some sponsors also get value from other forms of on-screen exposure, such as on-screen graphics, signage around the basketball court visible to the TV audience and studio sets with branded desks for the announcers.

During the 2013 NCAA men’s basketball tournament, sponsors received a total of $65.1 million in sponsorship media value (SMV) from these branded placements. SMV is a proprietary formula developed by Kantar Media.

Capital One, AT&T, Buick and Coca-Cola each had large sponsorship packages during the 2013 event and derived the most media value from their additional on-screen presence. Capital One led with an additional $18.9 million in media value, followed by AT&T ($16.1 million), Buick ($6.3 million) and Coke ($6.1 million), per Kantar Media.

All of the games are streamed live via the “NCAA March Madness Live” platform, and fans can access the ad-supported videocasts on PCs, tablets and smartphones.

Streamed video consumption is highest during the first week of the event, when multiple games are being played simultaneously, per Kantar.

According to Turner Sports, which manages the online video initiative, the 2013 tournament generated a record volume of live streams: 36,000 in the first week, 8,400 in the second week and 4,000 in the third week.

Last year there were 16.3 million comments posted on Twitter and Facebook during tournament coverage, according to an analysis conducted by the NCAA. More than 30% of these occurred during the championship game.

March Madness activation and experiential marketing hits a crescendo during Final Four weekend, which will take place in Dallas.

Among the events are the March Madness Music Festival, a three-day event comprised of three platforms: the AT&T Block Party (April 4), the Coca-Cola Zero Countdown (April 5) and the Capital One JamFest (April 6).

The Bud Light Hotel is the hub for a bevy of activations that the brewer is planning for March Madness. Although not an official marketing partner of the NCAA (the organization that encompasses student-athletes distances itself from beer and alcohol alliances), this is one of the reasons that Anheuser-Busch is one of the top marketing spenders during the tournament.

Anheuser-Busch said this would be the first non-Super Bowl staging of the Bud Light Hotel, which has been at the past five Super Bowls.

NCAA corporate champions are AT&T, Capital One and Coca-Cola. NCAA marketing partners include Allstate, Buffalo Wild Wings, Buick, Burger King, Enterprise, Infiniti, LG, Lowe's, Nabisco, Northwest Mutual, Reese's, Unilever and UPS.

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