The Super Bowl is known just as much for its advertising appeal as the talent on the field. March Madness, not so much. I couldn’t tell you a single television commercial I’ve seen during March Madness over the past decade. And yet, March Madness advertising spending last year eclipsed that of the postseason of every major sport — including the NFL playoffs and Super Bowl combined.
March Madness is quite possibly the most unifying, enthralling three weeks in sports, a time when lots of people watch more basketball in a month than they will the rest of the year. It’s fitting, then — albeit staggering to consider — that the NCAA college basketball tournament drummed up more advertising dollars for CBS and Turner Sports than the playoffs and championships of the National Football League, National Basketball Association, Major League Baseball and National Hockey League.
According to Adweek, citing a report from Kantar Media, March Madness 2012 produced just over $1 billion in tournament ad sales revenue, more than the NFL playoffs and Super Bowl ($976.3 million), all two months of the NBA postseason ($536.9 million), October MLB playoffs ($354.1 million), and the NHL playoffs ($101.1 million).
Last year’s tournament saw 85 unique advertisers, a field heavily laden with major auto manufacturers including Chrysler, Ford, Mercedes, Nissan, Volkswagen and General Motors, which spent the most at $80.3 million.
As far as price per advertising spot, the numbers aren’t as gaudy as the figures attached to Super Bowl ads — which commanded as much as $4 million per 30-second pop — but they’re still significant, and get richer the deeper teams go in the tournament.
Last year, the unit cost for a 30-second ad spot for the early March Madness rounds was roughly $100,000 each, reports Adweek, while a slot of the same duration in the Sweet 16 climbed as high as $350,000. Similarly, advertising during the Final Four would cost as high as $700,000. And for the privilege of flashing its brand name, logo and message during the Championship game, a company could expect to fork over at least $1.34 million last year, an 8 percent jump from the 2011 final.
Maybe this news will attract even more viewers to the tournament’s later rounds (it certainly works for the Super Bowl).
Or maybe the purity of the product on the court will continue to captivate the nation so much, that between Cinderella stories, 16-seeds upsetting No. 1 ranked Goliaths, and charismatic coaches getting their moment in the spotlight, too, we’ll continue to care far more about the game than its various logos and labels.