By Barry Janoff
March 15, 2016: It is not out of the realm of reality to talk about billions when discussing the NCAA Men's Div. I Basketball Tournament.
In 2010, CBS, which has carried the tournament since 1982, co-signed with Turner Sports a 14-year deal, valued at $10.8 billion, with the NCAA for March Madness coverage.
Since 2005, the tournament has generated more than $8.7 billion in marketing, promotions and related activations from nearly 300 different marketers, according to research and media intelligence firm Kantar Media, NY.
And in 2015 alone, March Madness generated a record $1.19 billion in TV ad spend.
Calling it "Marketing Madness,” Kantar said, "The NCAA has successfully monetized the sporting event through media rights fees and corporate sponsorship payments while creating a platform for marketers to reap benefits from advertising and promotional programs anchored around the games."
"Entering the sixth year of our 14-year deal, we have exceeded all expectations, including revenue, sales, marketing, ratings and digital," said David Levy, president for Turner Sports. "There's been an evolution in which marketers realize how important this three-week long event is. You rarely get that type of viewer and marketing concentration in sports over an extended period."
According to Kantar Media, last year's $1.19 billion in TV ad spend was a 4.8% increase from 2014. The figure includes pre-game, game and post-game programming, as well as studio shows.
The Top Ten advertisers in 2015, of which seven were NCAA partners, spent $444.4 million on 2,103 units.
The list was topped by General Motors, which spent $93.3 million on 390 units.
Also in the Top Ten: AT&T ($75.2 million, 418 units), Capital One ($44.8 million, 186 units), Berkshire Hathaway ($41.4 million, 197 units), Coca-Cola ($40.9 million, 188 units), Southwest Airlines ($33.7 million, 163 units), Samsung ($31.2 million, 124 units), Nissan ($18.4 million, 133 units), Unilever $27.9 million, 168 units) and Allstate ($27.9 million,126 units).
AT&T, Capital One and Coca-Cola are NCAA top-tier champion partners.
All but Berkshire Hathaway, Southwest and Samsung are NCAA partners.
NCAA corporate partners include Allstate, Amazon Echo, Microsoft's Bing, Buffalo Wild Wings, GM's Buick, Enterprise, Infiniti, Lowe's, LG, Nabisco, Northwestern Mutual, Reese's, Unilever and UPS.
Some 28.3 million people watched all or part of Duke defeat Wisconsin in the NCAA title game on CBS last season, with an average of 11.3 million for the entire game, making it the highest-rated March Madness championship game in 18 years.
Two semi-final games on TBS averaged 18.9 million, up 35% and most in 19 years.
This year, for the first time, the national championship game will be on TBS, part of the deal in which the title game will now alternate between TBS and CBS.
During the past few years, annual spending growth has been pacing at 2%-to-5%, with about 80-90 marketers buying air time per year, according to Kantar Media.
Thirty-second spots in the two semi-final games and title game this year are going for average $1.6 million.
In 2015, the average was $1.56 million. Prior to that: 2014 $1.5 million, 2013 $1.42 million, 2012 $1.34 million, 2011 $1.24 million, 2010 $1.22 million, 2009 $1.2 million, 2008 $1.24 million, 2007 $1.25 million and in 2006 $1.12 million average for a 30-second spot.
Among the companies that already have broken March Madness-related ads are Capital One (starring Charles Barkley, Spike Lee and Samuel L. Jackson), AT&T, Allstate, Coca-Cola, Bud Light, Buick, Dove Men+Care, and Buffalo Wild Wings.
Last year, the Top Five categories spent $681.5 million, or 57.3% of the total spend, on marketing.
That was topped by automotive, totaling $213.5 million (18%), led by GM, Infiniti and BMO (all NCAA partners).
The Top Five also included telecom ($147.8 million, 12.4%), led by AT&T, Samsung and Dish Network; restaurants ($110.9 million, 9.3%) headed by Buffalo Wild Wings, Burger King and Taco Bell; financial services ($109.9 million, 9.3%), led by Capital One, Northwestern Mutual and Quicken Loans; and insurance ($94.2 million, 8.4%), with the most spends coming from Geico, Allstate and Nationwide.
According to Turner Sports, which manages March Madness Live, the 2015 tournament generated record levels of online consumption. That included 80.7 million live video streams (+ 17% versus 2014) and 17.8 million hours of live video consumption watched (+19% percent versus 2014).
According to Kantar Media, advertisers cannot buy the March Madness Live audience by itself. Sales are bundled with linear TV ad packages and many of the TV sponsors do not appear in the online video casts.
Among marketing activations, Capital One is title sponsor for the Bracket Challenge and Microsoft's Bing will be the "official bracketologist" for March Madness.
Fan Fest will be presented by Capital One in the George R. Brown Convention Center. It includes the the AT&T Fan Zone, Buffalo Wild Wings Sports Lounge, Buick Arena, autographic sessions via NCAA March Madness Your Way presented by Burger King, Coca-Cola NCAA Youth Clinics.
Final Four Friday is presented by Reese's, which includes practices open to the public and the College All-Star Game.
The NCAA Final Four Music Festival includes the AT&T Block Party (April 1), Coca-Cola Music (April 2) and the Capital One JamFest (April 3).
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