As a marketing opportunity, March Madness makes sense

The NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Championship, better known as March Madness, begins this week and culminates with the Final Four on March 31 and the final on April 2.

The NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Championship, better known as March Madness, begins this week and culminates with the Final Four on March 31 and the final on April 2.

This single-elimination tournament held every spring features 65 college basketball teams competing at sites across the nation. It has become one of sports' most prominent events, including many tales of Cinderella schools making magical runs.

John Bogusz, EVP, sports sales and marketing for CBS, which broadcasts the tournament, told Mediaweek that his network is close to 95% sold out on coverage, with prices for a 30-second spot ranging between $100,000 for early rounds and up to $1.2 million for the championship game.

Why does it matter?

In the world of sports and entertainment, few events rival March Madness in terms of captivating an entire nation for an extended period of time, says Mark Beal, managing partner of Alan Taylor Communications. It takes place in more than a dozen cities, so the timeline, geographical location, and broad popularity makes for a great marketing and PR platform.

Beal adds that the appeal of the event is hardly exclusive to hard-core college hoops fans. It prompts office pools across the US, with many participants who know little about the game.

Every agency representing a brand or a team during March Madness is able build their local sponsorship to a national PR opportunity, he explains. Because it reaches so many people and garners so much media coverage, there's just a need for more content surrounding this tournament.

For example, A&T is launching Mash-Up Madness, a program inviting fans to create college basketball videos of their favorite participating teams and enter a contest to win prizes, according to Kathy Sharpe of Sharpe Partners.

Five facts:

1 Mediaweek reported that the broadcast revenue for the tournament is expected to bring in $100 million. Major ad sponsors include Cingular/AT&T and Coca-Cola

2 In 1966, Texas Western became the first Division I school to ever win the championship with a starting lineup of all African-American players, inspiring the movie, Glory Road

3 Madness Against Malaria, a tournament to raise money for bed nets, has raised $71,197, which equals 14,239 bed nets. More than 100 teams are involved in the campaign

4 March Madness could cost American companies $889.6 million in lost work, according to outplacement consulting firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas

5 When George Mason made a surprise trip to the Final Four last year, more than 1,000 new alumni signed up to be on the university's e-mail list

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