As the NCAA Tournament will begin in earnest on Thursday, broadcast partners CBS and Turner Sports go into this year knowing that the event is a cash cow. Advertisers with plenty of national platforms on on TV and online are aware that their messages will be seen by plenty of Americans.
While ratings fell last year (notably for the Final Four and National Championship both being on TBS together for the first time), ad revenue reached $1.24 billion in 2016 and that was up 5% from the previous year.
Dating back to 2007, ad spending has jumped from $525 million to $1.24 billion. Ad spending on the NCAA Tournament has outpaced the NBA Playoffs ($1.03 billion last year) and trails only the NFL postseason which generated $1.31 billion.
One reason why ad sales have increased so much since 2007 is due to all of the games being aired nationally. When CBS aired the tournament solo, first round games were aired regionally in four different windows. But with Turner on board, all 32 first round games are televised across the country so advertisers know their commercials will bre seen.
Some advertisers choose only to appear only in the first weekend of the tournament knowing that’s when upsets are likely to happen. But most companies elect to stay for all three weeks of March Madness and appear during the Final Four and the National Championship.
And with this year’s Final Four and National Championship airing on CBS, advertisers are aware that there will be a bigger audience than last year.
March Madness has become a special event not just for sports fans, but also for advertisers who hope to reach a mass audience for three weeks.