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March 8, 2023 2 min read

March Madness: Which Brands Are Winning the Big Dance

It’s that time of year again, March Madness fans! The NCAA tournament is set to begin with Selection Sunday in just a few sleeps, and with it, the excitement and anticipation of a month-long basketball extravaganza.

For sports fans nationwide, this is an opportunity to cheer on our favorite teams and players as they compete for college basketball supremacy. But for modern marketers, March Madness offers up an entirely different kind of thrill: the chance for brands to get in on some truly unique ad opportunities.

At EDO, we, too, have caught the madness, so each week on this live blog, we’ll be sharing which advertisers are driving the greatest TV performance with their brand ads during this year’s tournament. Join us weekly as we explore how brands are taking advantage of these special moments in college hoops history as they air their national TV spots.

But first, while you’re still reminiscing about your perfect 2022 March Madness bracket and a year of Miss Cleo bragging rights, let’s talk a little bit about how advertisers fared during the event these past couple of years.

Which ads will have audiences at the edge of their seats?

The first two rounds of the March Madness tournament consist of 48 games played across the TBS, CBS, TNT, and truTV networks. Advertisers have a much higher likelihood of driving engagement for their brands and products on a per-person, per-second basis in comparison to the average. For example, in 2021, the first two rounds performed 20% better than the broadcast and cable primetime average, and in 2022, 27% better. 

And, of course, the Championship games for 2021 and 2022 performed the best for advertisers at 188% and 139% above the Primetime Broadcast & Cable average, respectively, and ranked among each year’s top-performing live sports events.

Ads that ran during 2022’s face-off between Kansas and North Carolina had the greatest overall impact. So much so that a brand advertising during the NCAA Championship Tournament would need to air about 83 ads during Primetime Broadcast & Cable programming to generate as much engagement as 1 ad aired during the Championship.

One might expect that consumers’ likeliness to engage with advertisers after seeing an airing will predictably climb during each winnowing of the tournament’s contestants. This is true within each respective year. However, in comparing NCAA Tournament ad effectiveness from 2021 to 2022, EDO data shows that each round outperforms its predecessor until the Final Four. In 2021, ads run during the Final Four performed 125% above the average primetime broadcast & cable average, whereas, in 2022, the Final Four performed 110% above the average.

Both ad performances are solid, but 2021’s slightly better performance may indicate the matchup that year was just a little bit more must-watch than in 2022. So when they say, “anything can happen,” they’re not kidding.

With just seconds on the clock, the ad changes strategy!

Are we saying that we can predict the winning bracket this year? Not on the court. But we are saying that if you’re planning to run ads during March Madness this year, and the must-watch team gets eliminated, we can tell you where to shift your ad dollars to make sure for advertisers, at least, your ad has the best seat in the house.

And, while you wait for the games to begin, if you’re facing a full-court press on your marketing budget this year, let EDO make sure your playbook is ready for anything