Mar
14
2011

Gauging the Interest Level of NCAA Tournament Host Cities

We finally know the 68 college men’s basketball teams that will compete this year in the NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Tournament, one of the nation’s most adored and followed sporting events. While most of the media attention will be focused on the teams competing in the big dance, Experian Marketing Services is starting out our March Madness consumer insight coverage by examining the NCAA men’s tournament from a different angle: that of the host cities.

Landing an NCAA basketball tournament gig is no small feat, with host city organizers using their time in the media spotlight to showcase the finer side of their fair town in hopes of attracting new business and residents. In this post, we’ll leverage the trusted local market consumer research from Experian Simmons to explore the strength of each of the first- and second-round host cities when it comes to their residents’ interest in college basketball and, specifically, the annual NCAA men’s tournament. Which city has their heart in it the most and which may be just in it for the attention? You may be surprised.

Tucson

Second-round play begins at the McKale Center in Tucson on March 17th, and after a year out, the University of Arizona’s Wildcats (official university host to the Tucson games) are back in the tournament as a number 5 seed. Despite the hometown team having reached the tournament 25 consecutive years between 1985 and 2009, Tucson-area residents overall have a lackluster interest in the tournament and college basketball in general. Just 13.3% of residents of the Tucson Designated Market Area, or DMA, watched some or all of the last NCAA men’s basketball tournament placing them solidly in last place among the nine first- and second-round host cities for this metric. Tucson also ranks ninth of the nine ranked host cities for overall college basketball interest with just 22.1% of area residents saying they have any interest in the sport. The University of Arizona’s students may be crazy about their team, but the surrounding area just doesn’t seem to have their heart in it: 9th place.

Scoreboard:

  • Viewed NCAA Men’s Tournament rank: 9th out of 9 (13.3%)
  • Very interested in men’s basketball rank: 8th out of 9 (8.4%)
  • Any interest in men’s basketball rank: 9th out of 9 (22.1%)
  • Overall rank: 9th of 9

Dayton

In Dayton, Ohio, host city of the first-round games scheduled to begin Tuesday March 15, 14.1% of adults said they watched some or all of the last NCAA men’s basketball tournament. Of the nine cities hosting first- or second-round games of the men’s tournament this year, Dayton ranks seventh in terms of area residents’ likelihood to watch the men’s tournament. In fact, compared to the average American adult, residents of the Dayton DMA are actually 14% relatively less likely to have watched last year’s tournament. When it comes to strong interest in college basketball, in general, Dayton-area residents are at the bottom of the pack, ranking 9th out of the nine first- and second-round host cities. While nationwide, 10.5% of adults say they are “very interested” in college basketball, only 7.9% of Dayton-area residents share that sentiment. Dayton’s low interest in the tournament and the game overall makes it an appropriate host for first-round play where the lowest ranked teams duke it out for a ticket to the rest of the big dance: 8th place.

Scoreboard:

  • Viewed NCAA Men’s Tournament rank: 7th out of 9 (14.1%)
  • Very interested in men’s basketball rank: 9th out of 9 (7.9%)
  • Any interest in men’s basketball rank: 6th out of 9 (24.1%)
  • Overall rank: 8th of 9

Tampa

Despite having played host to the 2008 NCAA women’s basketball Final Four, interest in the men’s tournament and college basketball overall is low in the Tampa-St. Pete-area. Experian Simmons research shows that Tampa DMA residents are 13% relatively less likely than the average American adult to say they watched the last NCAA men’s basketball tournament. Likewise, interest in the sport is below average with just 8.8% of Tampa-area residents saying they are “very interested” in college basketball and 23.2% saying they have any interest whatsoever in the sport, a metric for which the area tops only 9th place Tucson in the ranking.  On the bright side, women’s basketball still piques interest in the area with 4.6% of residents saying they watched last year’s NCAA women’s basketball tournament, which is a relative 7% higher than the U.S. average: Tampa’s interest in the women’s tournament doesn’t make up for the lack of interest in the sport overall: 7th place.

Scoreboard:

  • Viewed NCAA Men’s Tournament rank: 6th out of 9 (14.2%)
  • Very interested in men’s basketball rank: 6th out of 9 (8.8%)
  • Any interest in men’s basketball rank: 8th out of 9 (23.2%)
  • Overall rank: 7th of 9

Tulsa

Things get going in Tulsa on March 18th at the BOK Center, but outside of the arena will anyone be watching? Last year, only 13.3% of Tulsa-area residents watched some or all of the NCAA men’s tournament, barely-and we mean barely-edging out Tucson to avoid a last place finish in this metric. The area redeems itself a bit with its strong interest in college basketball. In fact, 9.7% of Tulsa-area residents are “very interested” in the sport, an incidence that is relatively 5% higher than the U.S. on whole. Outside of those die-hard fans, the area is relatively weak when it comes to basketball interest with only 24% of residents saying they have any interest in college basketball. Middling interest earns Tulsa a middling overall position in the ranking: 6th place. 

Scoreboard:

  • Viewed NCAA Men’s Tournament rank: 8th out of 9 (13.3%)
  • Very interested in men’s basketball rank: 3rd out of 9 (9.7%)
  • Any interest in men’s basketball rank: 7th out of 9 (24.0%)
  • Overall rank: 6th of 9

Chicago

Last year, the Chicagoland area made it into the top 10 on our March Madness ranker, but without any area teams making it into the bracket this year or last, interest in the tournament has waned. In Chicago and the surrounding area, 15.8% of adults said they watched at least some of the last NCAA men’s tournament, which is slightly below the national average and behind three other first- or second-round host cities. Strong interest in college basketball is also relatively weak in the area with only 8.7% of residents saying they are “very interested” in the sport and 25% saying they have any interest at all. Chicago may be one of the great American sports towns, but it’s not our pick: 5th place.

Scoreboard:

  • Viewed NCAA Men’s Tournament rank: 4th out of 9 (15.8%)
  • Very interested in men’s basketball rank: 7th out of 9 (8.7%)
  • Any interest in men’s basketball rank: 5th out of 9 (25.0%)
  • Overall rank: 5th of 9

Cleveland

We hear that Cleveland rocks and at first glance Cleveland has a lot going for it college hoops-wise. Viewership of the last NCAA men’s tournament was pretty good with 16.1% of area residents saying they tuned in. Likewise, 26.0% of the “North Coast” residents say they are at least a little bit interested in college basketball. Though when we dig deeper, we find that the basketball fan base is comprised more heavily of fair weather fans since only 9.2% of all residents say they are “very interested” in college basketball. Cleveland will likely make a great second-round host city, but its lower concentration of hard-core fans drops it down in the ranking: 4th place.

Scoreboard:

  • Viewed NCAA Men’s Tournament rank: 3rd out of 9 (16.1%)
  • Very interested in men’s basketball rank: 5th out of 9 (9.2%)
  • Any interest in men’s basketball rank: 3rd out of 9 (26.0%)
  • Overall rank 4th of 9

Charlotte

Before we get started, a bit of full disclosure: the author of this blog post is a University of Kansas grad, so anytime North Carolina and basketball are used in the same sentence, I get a little nervous. That said, Charlotte is a great basketball town. In fact, area residents are fully 10% more likely to be “very interested” in college basketball than the average American. Only one other city hosting an first- or second-round game tops Charlotte on this metric. However, the area performs less strongly when it comes to overall sport interest and viewership of the last NCAA men’s tournament. In fact, while a quarter of residents (25.1%) say they have at least some interest in college basketball, that figure is actually slightly below the national average. Likewise, 15.7% of area residents said they watched some or all of the last tournament, ranking Charlotte behind Cleveland, Chicago and our top two place finishers. With Charlotte’s high concentration of hard-core fans, there’s no doubt the Time Warner Cable Arena is the place to be; it’s just not first place: 3rd place.

Scoreboard:

  • Viewed NCAA Men’s Tournament rank: 5th out of 9 (15.7%)
  • Very interested in men’s basketball rank: 2nd out of 9 (10.2%)
  • Any interest in men’s basketball rank: 4th out of 9 (25.1%)
  • Overall rank: 3rd of 9

Denver

Tip-off for second-round play takes place at the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado on March 17th. While Denver-area residents may not be the nation’s biggest basketball fans, they don’t disappoint either. Among the nine first- and second-round host cities, Denver ranks second in terms of residents’ likelihood for having watched the last NCAA men’s basketball tournament. According to Experian Simmons research, 16.2% of Denver-area adults said they watched last year’s tournament. While that score is enough to secure a 2nd place finish among the nine first- and second-round host cities, it barely puts Denver on par with the rest of the nation. In fact, Denver-area residents are no more, nor less likely than the average American to have watched the last men’s tournament. That said, interest in college basketball is something that is more commonly found in Denver than in the rest of the U.S.A. Specifically, 27.5% of Denver-area adults say they are interested in college basketball making them 8% more likely to be fans than the average American and giving them a second place finish in this category of our analysis. Denver may be a mile high, but it’s still just shy of the top: 2nd place.

Scoreboard:

  • Viewed NCAA Men’s Tournament rank: 2nd out of 9 (16.2%)
  • Very interested in men’s basketball rank: 4th out of 9 (9.7%)
  • Any interest in men’s basketball rank: 2nd out of 9 (27.5%)
  • Overall rank: 2nd of 9

Washington, D.C.

The Verizon Center is the epicenter of the action in this second-round host city, which kicks things off on March 17th. D.C.-area denizens, which includes our basketball-playing Commander in Chief are clearly into college basketball with fully 17.5% of residents saying they watched the last men’s basketball tournament and 10.5% reporting that they are “very interested” in college basketball. Moreover, strong interest in college basketball among residents of our nation’s capitol is a relative 13% above the national average. With several vaunted university basketball programs located within the area, including this year’s number six seed Georgetown, it’s no surprise that over a quarter of D.C.-area residents (28.5%) say they have at least some interest in college basketball. A clean sweep of the three categories secures the top spot for Washington, D.C.: 1st place.

Scoreboard:

  • Viewed NCAA Men’s Tournament rank: 1st out of 9 (17.5%)
  • Very interested in men’s basketball rank: 1st out of 9 (10.5%)
  • Any interest in men’s basketball rank: 1st out of 9 (28.5%)
  • Overall rank: 1st of 9

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