Only one of 68 teams could win. In the end, it was the University of Connecticut that took the title. As the Huskies celebrated, the season ended with tears and heartbreak for the University of Kentucky Wildcats. But when it comes to marketing during the NCAA basketball tournament, there really are no losers.
There is something very genuine about March Madness. These aren’t million dollar athletes playing for billionaire owners. Though the cynical will point out that this is big business. There is something about this tournament that transcends modern sport. It is about pride, school pride and teamwork and underdogs. Who doesn’t love a true Cinderella story unfolding in prime time?
There could only be one champion, but there were plenty of prize-winners in this tourney. CBS walked away a big winner having generated approximately $1 Billion in ad sales during the games. Though the Super Bowl has long worn the crown as the king of marketing activity, March Madness is taking a run at the throne. While it is hard to conceive given all the hype of Super Bowl commercials, the NCAA tournament already generates more ad revenue than the NFL playoffs, including the Big Game. And when you count in the total brand exposure, the tournament’s market value just keeps climbing.
The winner of the brands comes as no surprise. Nike sponsors 43 of the 68 teams that played in with Nike sub-brand Jordan sponsoring two additional teams. The swoosh is getting plenty of exposure on jerseys, shorts, and, of course, the shoes. Sponsorships do not come cheap. Adidas, with 18 teams wearing its gear, scored the highest sponsorship deal with top seeded Florida with $2.8 million in gear and an additional $3.2 million in cash for the school. All in all, total sponsorships add up to more than $100 million in revenue just in uniforms, shoes, and gear.
Under Armour and Russell Athletic made appearances this year as well. I’m sure we’ll see more of Under Armour and it’s effective “I Will” campaign in the coming years. Expect to soon hear of bidding wars and even higher sponsorship values.
Last night, UConn was named the National Champion, but in the marketing world, we already knew the biggest winner was Warren Buffet and Quicken Loans Billion Dollar Bracket Challenge sponsored by Yahoo Sports. Despite inconceivable odds (one-in-9.2 quintillion), 11 million fans filled out the online bracket for a chance to win $1 billion. Media quickly bit and the buzz was brilliant. Quicken Loans was on the tongues of nearly every newscast in the country. And it secured data from all 11 million people who entered. No sponsorship required.
In a world where appointment television is less and less and the market is splintered over hundreds of channels and numerous devices, there is something to be said for a three-week event that captures the attention of a nation. An invaluable mix of school pride, dramatic competition, office-pool bragging rights and clever marketing savvy has made this year’s March Madness an undeniable success. As for my success? Next year will be the year I win my office pool.