Which Brands are a Slam Dunk for Targeting NCAA Basketball Tournament Viewers?

Viewers of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament on CBS and Turner Broadcasting as well as women’s tournament viewers on ESPN can expect a barrage of television commercials as the field is whittled down to the Final Four. On the men’s side, commercial air time is carefully orchestrated. TV timeouts are scheduled immediately following a dead ball situation with 16, 12, 8, and 4 minutes remaining in each half. This allows for ample opportunity to air multiple 30-second spots during each commercial break. On average, advertisers will spend over $1 million for a 30-second spot aired during the men’s tournament championship game.

On average, advertisers will spend over $1 million for a 30-second spot aired during the men’s tournament championship game.

Because the event is stretched out over a three-week long period and reaches a relatively affluent consumer base, the tournament has broad appeal to advertisers. While perhaps not as impactful as a single sporting event with a much larger audience, such as the Super Bowl, advertisers can still benefit by delivering their message to a healthy-size audience with increased frequency. Based on an analysis of television viewership data tracked by Experian Simmons, the men’s tournament will reach nearly 20% of adults age 18 or over. That’s counting all games over the full length of the tournament.

Several national advertisers targeting men’s tourney viewers can expect to reach a large percentage of their brand users. In fact, the five advertisers with the greatest brand penetration among likely men’s tournament viewers include Coca-Cola (65%), AT&T (50%), Ford (24%), LG (21%) and Honda (15%).

But it isn’t necessarily the biggest brands that reap the greatest reward from advertising during an event with the staying power of March Madness and the NCAA basketball tournament. This is one conclusion from an analysis based on Experian’s Ad Relevancy Score. The score is an estimate of how closely a targeted audience that is exposed to an ad (in this case, the audience that is likely to be viewing the men’s tournament) matches up against the profile of a brand’s existing customer base. A high score indicates that the audience is a strong match and good fit for the brand. In other words, the ad should be particularly relevant to those who are viewing. A low score indicates that the ad could be less relevant because the targeted audience misses the mark relative to the characteristics of the brand’s most likely users. The average Experian Ad Relevancy Score for a brand is set at 100.

When ranking brands based on an analysis of the Experian Ad Relevancy Score for the men’s basketball tournament, we narrowed the advertiser field down to an Elite Eight. Five of the top eight scores are for automotive-related brands. The qualifying brands and their associated scores are as follows:

Advertiser Score
1 Northwestern Mutual 276
2 Infiniti 219
3 Mercedes Benz 169
4 Enterprise Rent-A-Car 142
5 Volkswagen 142
6 Capital One 128
7 Mazda 127
8 LG 119