Create Brand Awareness Through the NCAA Tournament’s Branding Masterpiece

By: Jeff Bartl | February 4, 2019

The following is an excerpt from “The NCAA Tournament’s Branding Masterpiece and How You Can Benefit,” a whitepaper from STATS detailing the plethora of opportunities available for outlets to increase engagement during March Madness. Download the full whitepaper here and follow @StatsBySTATS on Twitter for more information.


The target audience is simple: Everyone.


Rob Carr/Getty Images

Going beyond the now ubiquitous March Madness tag, the NCAA has created subgroups within its own tournament — Selection Sunday, First Four, Sweet 16, Elite Eight, Final Four — allowing the NCAA and television partners CBS and Turner to entice advertisers looking to reach specific segments of fans. Casual observers come and go depending on their favorite teams’ performance or their standing in a bracket pool, but by creating new opportunities during each week of the tournament, you’re going well beyond just capturing the Duke alumni. These sub-brands leave room for brand-messaging creativity, sponsorship, accolade, and tried and true organic hype.

Event strategic brand placement within certain seating areas in arenas helps brand awareness. For example, Wendy’s placing an advertisement for late-night dining near a student-reserved section likely to imbibe after the game seems more effective. As would Northwestern Mutual advertising near luxury suites, corporate boxes and high-end seating. Both are official corporate partners of the NCAA and ramp up their marketing efforts in March.

But spending the most money doesn’t necessarily translate to the best results, especially when it comes to consumer social engagement that included 63 million social media impressions from fans during the 2017 NCAA Tournament. 4Cinsights conducted an analysis of the top 20 brands airing at least 10 spots during the 2017 tournament in order to “determine the likelihood a consumer is to engage with a brand on social media within two minutes after their March Madness ad aired,” which is referred to as social lift — increases in mentions, likes, comments and retweets. According to 4Cinisights, Capital One and Geico spent the most on television advertising with 160 commercials, but neither saw much social engagement. Acura ran 37 spots and had a 1,491 percent increase in social media engagements.

During the tournament’s championship game, Coca-Cola, which is an “official NCAA corporate champion” sponsor along with Capital One and AT&T, purchased more than five minutes of ad time and had the least amount of social lift. Bud Light spent the fewest dollars and increased social media engagements 24,782 percent. All the aforementioned names are recognized major brands, but some went beyond leveraging television and online streams to spend their money wiser, increasing awareness and driving consumer engagement.

Now it’s up to you to capitalize. 

Download “The NCAA Tournament’s Branding Masterpiece and How You Can Benefit”