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Advertising During March Madness: Finding Your Fans

March 7th, 2017   ||    by Susan Kuchinskas

Advertising during March Madness is a winner for broadcasters. Media-intelligence firm Kantar Media estimated the annual NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship produced $1.19 billion worth of TV ad spending in 2015. That number includes pre-game, game and post-game programming, plus studio shows. No wonder Kantar calls this season “Marketing Madness.”

The madness won’t be ending anytime soon, either. According to Adweek, CBS and Turner renewed their television and digital licenses for the tournament all the way through 2032. Probably a wise decision, as game coverage across the networks has averaged more than 10.2 million total viewers, and ad revenue for 2016 was 10 percent higher than in 2015.

That’s great for broadcasters, but advertisers still need to make sure they achieve a good return on investment for their ad spends—and this can be a bit tricky.

Avoiding Audience Airballs

It makes sense for mass-market brands to go big on advertising during March Madness. Last year, major national brands willing to fork over more than $1 million for commercials included AT&T, Allstate and Buffalo Wild Wings, according to brandchannel. (Yahoo Advertising said orders of wings were up 24 percent during tournament dates last year.) According to Experian, the five advertisers with the greatest brand penetration among likely men’s tournament viewers include Coca-Cola (65 percent), AT&T (50 percent), Ford (24 percent), LG (21 percent) and Honda (15 percent).

Marketers seeking to reach more targeted audiences during the playoff season can also tap into the madness. But doing so is not as easy as running commercials on local station groups when the hometown team is playing. A study of American sports fans by the USC Annenberg Center for a Digital Future and ThePostGame found 64 percent of fans do not live where their favorite team plays, and 73 percent of sports fans do not live where their favorite athlete plays.

The study concluded, “The concept of a local sports market may be obsolete.” But targeting sports fans by content is not. That same study found 50 percent of fans watch supplemental sports programming, such as local TV shows that may preview or give highlights of a local team’s turn in the spotlight. In fact, 60 percent of fans said such content was important to them.

Tech Goes for the Assist

Advertisers should also be sure to take current technologies and tech trends into account. There’s additional opportunity to find your audience on mobile devices, for example, where people engage in the phenomenon known as social TV. As we saw in last year’s Super Bowl, mobile screens extend the reach of TV programming, as they allow fans to share content with their friends—and people they don’t know—next door and all over the world.

And as the capacity and inventory of programmatic television continue to expand and evolve, advertisers will be able to tap into the intense excitement of live sports games by using programmatic platforms to buy advertising during March Madness. Automated TV buying lets advertisers incorporate better targeting into their integrated media planning, informing their buying decisions with data on audience segments, consumer behavior and preferences, and demographics.

It’s also important to remember that, while the NCAA Basketball tournament runs from March 12 through April 3, fans will be going through their normal days with one eye fixed on a screen. So advertising during March Madness offers a whole range of opportunities for television spots that can ride the intense appeal of these games.

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