FGCULogo t607If you haven’t heard of what Florida Gulf Coast is doing in the NCAA tournament, you haven’t been paying attention.

Florida Gulf Coast is a small university in Ft. Myers, Florida. The school itself has only been in existence for 20 years. They’ve only been eligible for the NCAA tournament for 2 years.

In the first round FGCU played longtime Big East power Georgetown. This is the same Georgetown that produced NBA Hall of Famers Patrick Ewing and Allen Iverson. This is the same Georgetown that has won multiple national championships. Georgetown was a #2 seed. Florida Gulf Coast was a #15 seed. Georgetown was favored by the Vegas oddsmakers by over 15 points.

Long story short: Georgetown was going to blow them out.

Except…they didn’t.

Florida Gulf Coast drubbed a stunned Georgetown team. No only did Florida Gulf Coast beat Georgetown, they furiously, angrily, and repeatedly dunked over the hapless and helpless Georgetown defenders.

This is only the 6th time a #15 seed has ever beaten a #2 seed.

In the next game Florida Gulf Coast played San Diego State. They won again. And they dunked more too.

Florida Gulf Coast is now in the Sweet 16. They play the Florida Gators (the 2-time national champion Florida Gators) for a trip to the Elite 8.

So, here’s the question: for a small university like Florida Gulf Coast, how much is a trip to the Sweet 16 worth in advertising and marketing? How much (dare we say it?) would a trip to the Final Four be worth? How much money would they have to spend in advertising to generate the equivalent level of branding and noteriety?

Let’s try to figure that out.

Past Case Studies: Butler and George Mason

In 2006 the unknown George Mason Patriots–a tiny school with no basketball history–made it to the Final Four. Several studies indicated the tournament run netted the school between $600 million and $700 million in free advertising.

When Butler went to the Final Four in 2010, they estimated that trip was worth about $450 million in free advertising and exposure.

As an ESPN article points out that this doesn’t include other benefits like an increased number of applications, increases in ticket sales, better recruits to improve teams in the future, and donations.

As the ESPN article says: “That is advertising money can’t buy.”

What About Florida Gulf Coast?

Ratings for NCAA tournament games increase as the tournament progresses so, obviousl,y if FGCU loses to Florida and fails to make it to the Final Four the benefit wouldn’t be as great as if they actually make it to the Final Four. But, Florida Gulf Coast’s story is more appealing than Butler’s or George Mason’s. They are a lower seed. The odds against their success are more substantial.

The value–even if they lose now–is easily in the $300 million + range. If they continue to win…the numbers will be staggering and will be–mark my words–nearly $1B before for all is said and done. The sparkling campus sitting on the sands of the Gulf of Mexico in Ft. Myers coud never buy advertising like this.

So, marketers, if you want to succeed without a budget, figure out a way to get to the Final Four.