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March Madness: Who’s Winning the Battle of the Brands?

Spalding and State Farm are among those that lead the way with in-game advertising, while Jordan Brand teams are experiencing disproportionate success.

On the court, the winners and losers are clear. The invention of the scoreboard made that the case long ago. But in advertising, the brands that have performed the best in March Madness are a little less obvious.

Elevate Sports Ventures and Hive Analytics released a whistle-to-whistle brand exposure study on Wednesday, determining which companies generated the most money in exposure during the men’s and women’s games themselves rather than just the commercials. Through the first two rounds, March Madness has generated more than $165 million in equivalent media value, as determined by Hive’s AI-powered media intelligence platform.

“Most digital signage in arenas is allocated to brands for a fixed duration. However, brands get the most value from the subset of that exposure which is visible to the larger audience watching the event at home, which can often vary across brands based on gameplay,” said Dan Calpin, Hive – Enterprise AI’s president. “The ability to measure this exposure in near real-time, especially during a season or multi-week event like March Madness, creates an opportunity to better align exposure with where brands get value.” 

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Some topline findings from the study, which measured data through Sunday (so it did not include the second day of the women’s Second Round):

  • In the men’s and women’s games, sponsors with signage on the basket stanchions won the week — Spalding had more than 18 hours of men’s tournament screen time and seven hours of women’s tournament screen time. State Farm dominated women’s screen time on the stanchions with more than 20 hours of screen time. NCAA corporate champions Capital One, AT&T, Buick and Coca-Cola also fared well, along with Degree deodorant.
  • Nike outfitted 69 of the 134 tournament teams, but it was its Jordan Brand imprint that will have an outsized impact moving forward. Though Jumpman outfitted just 9% of the men’s field of 68, four of those teams advanced to the Sweet 16. In the men’s tourney, Adidas lost four of its 13 teams in the First Four and another five in the first round. Under Armour lost nine of its 14 teams in the first round.
  • While viewership levels in men’s games were higher than the women’s games, making per-minute exposure more valuable to brands, women’s tournament games averaged 89 minutes of total brand exposure. That was nearly 20% more than the average men’s game.
  • On the commercial side, 40 companies aired national TV spots, with 22 exclusively airing during men’s games and 12 exclusive to the women’s tourney. NCAA corporate champions and partners aired the most ads across the board , but after them, GEICO, Gatorade, State Farm and Progressive did the most. Brands unique to the men’s tournament included Lowe’s, GMC, Corona, and Samsung, while brands unique to the women’s games included McDonald’s, Dodge, Skittles, USAA, and Walmart.
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