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EDO TeamMarch 14, 20243 min read

The Caitlin Clark Effect: Women’s Basketball Surges in Popularity, Ad Effectiveness Ahead of March Madness

With March Madness just around the corner, now is a great time to examine the surging popularity of women’s college basketball — and its growing value to TV advertisers. 

That’s part of why we decided this was the perfect month to release our Women’s Sports TV Outcomes Report, which compiles what we’ve learned about the growth of women’s sports throughout the past year in an easily digestible guide to the most effective programs, brands, and ads.

Over the past several years, NCAA women’s basketball has been one of the fastest-growing TV sports, generating increasingly high consumer engagement year-over-year. And since these consumer engagement behaviors have a proven link to business outcomes, this means women’s college basketball is an increasingly better bet for the brands that sponsor it. 


NCAA Tournament delivers impressive year-over-year ad effectiveness growth

Last year’s NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament final was the most-watched title game in the tournament’s history, with an average of 9.9 million viewers tuning in to watch Angel Reese’s Louisiana State team top Caitlin Clark and the University of Iowa.

But the value for advertisers in last year’s game wasn’t just that it had a large audience — it was that this large audience was also significantly more engaged with the ads they saw than during past women’s title games. In fact, ad effectiveness for last year’s championship game was up 18% year-over-year, and engagement during regular season games was up 32% year-over year.

Since NCAA women’s basketball content resonates with a wide range of viewers, it’s proved to be a strong advertising tool for a wide range of brands.

For instance, Old Spice is a brand that primarily gears its products to men, and it has generated 104% more per-person, per-second engagement this season than the average NCAA women’s basketball advertiser. 

Meanwhile, the most effective advertiser of the bunch, Invesco Funds Group, came from the financial services sector. Invesco Funds Group has been 264% more effective than the average NCAA women’s basketball advertiser this season to date.


Caitlin Clark drives consumer engagement — whether she’s on the court or in the ads

Women’s college basketball has had no shortage of prominent players and storylines over the past few decades, perhaps topped by the Breanna Stewart-led Connecticut dynasty, which reeled off 111 consecutive victories between 2014 and 2017.

But rarely have the stars aligned as perfectly as they have for Iowa guard Caitlin Clark, who had already achieved national (and global) superstardom even before breaking LSU and NBA legend Pete Mavarich’s all-time Division I scoring mark earlier this month. 

Despite Clark’s heroics last season, Iowa fell to LSU in the national championship game, and the quest by Clark and the Hawkeyes to take that last step and bring home the trophy will make for some captivating television when the NCAA Women’s Tournament tips off March 20. 

According to our analysis, ads during telecasts of NCAA women’s basketball games featuring Clark and Iowa are 7% more effective than the average for the sport. 

And Jake from State Farm might have some friendly competition: Since Clark’s first national TV spot for the insurance provider aired in November 2023, the sharpshooter has made 286 appearances in ads for the company, with those spots proving to be 46% more effective at driving engagement than the average State Farm ad.

When Clark’s ads air during the Hawkeyes games she’s playing in, these spots are an additional 28% more effective than usual.


Beyond basketball: Ads deliver growing effectiveness across women’s sports

These findings are just a small sample of the wealth of information in EDO’s Women’s Sports TV Outcomes Report, which also details engagement with advertising on televised women’s sports such as grand slam tennis and World Cup soccer, as well as how sportswear brands are riding the momentum of women’s sports. 

As brands look to jump into the growing opportunity of women’s sports, they’ll be well-served to look to the programs and creative messages that are most effective at generating the outcomes that predict future business results. Our Women’s Sports TV Outcomes Report is chock-full of these insights, and you can download it here.