Men's Final Four Generates Big Games, Big Moments, Big Money

Among the major sports events that cities clamor to host are the Super Bowl, the Olympics and the NCAA Div. I  Men's Basketball Tournament Final Four.

In 2008, the Final Four generated more than $47 million in economic benefits when San Antonio hosted it, according to local organizers. In 2010, the Final Four in Reliant Stadium generated an estimated $100 million in economic impact to the area, according to the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau.

In 2012, with the concluding games of March Madness taking place in the Mercedes-Benz SuperDome, New Orleans realized an economic impact of $135 million, according to the New Orleans Visitors and Convention Bureau.

But as the saying goes, everything is bigger in Big D, including the size of the venue, AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, where the semi-final and championship games will be played this weekend.

The NCAA tournament could generate upward of $276 million in spending and other financial income in Dallas and the surrounding areas, according to the Major Events Trust Fund, which operates under the auspices of the Governor of Texas' Office of Economic Development and Tourism.

According to Greg Shaheen, who from 2000 to 2012 was the NCAA's senior vice president for basketball and business strategies, "Year after year, the continued success of the men's Final Four demonstrates it is one of America's great events. The support from corporate champions and corporate partners for the men's Final Four and all 88 NCAA championships is strong and growing."

The 2014 Final Four is unique in many ways, all of which are beneficial to marketers, fans, the NCAA and local businesses and politicians.

This will be the first time that an official NCAA corporate partner will see its name on the marquee of the Final Four venue.

Last July, AT&T signed a naming rights deal with Jerry Jones, majority owner of the NFL's Dallas Cowboys and their $1.2 billion stadium, which was valued at upward of $19 million annually over 10 years by industry analysts.

While attendance may not reach the record 108,000-plus who were there for the 2010 NBA All-Star Game, expectations are that upward of 85,000 could be in AT&T Stadium on April 5 for the semi-finals and again on April 7 for the championship game.

Although media value from the upcoming Final Four has yet to be determined, it is expected to at least double the $16 million in media value that AT&T received via on-air branding and related platforms during the 2013 tournament.

AT&T spent some $70 million to activate in and around March Madness last year, second only to the $80.7 million spent by General Motors, according to marketing and research firm Kantar Media, NY. 

That figure is also expected to rise as AT&T plans to have a multitude of activations on the ground in and around Dallas, where the company is headquartered, leading to and then during Final Four Weekend.

In addition to a pair of TV campaigns that have been running through March Madness — one starring former NCAA and NBA players David Robinson and Dikembe Mutombo, another with Mark Cuban, owner of the NBA's Dallas Mavericks — AT&T's platform in and around Dallas is wide-ranging.

That includes experiential outdoor ads such as interactive store fronts, building projections and a “3D spectacular"; the AT&T Block Party as part of the NCAA March Madness Music Festival; an AT&T Mobile Lounge and AT&T Fan Zone in Bracket Town, a 350,000-square-foot fan-fest in which all of the NCAA's marketing partners will have some presence.

Among the other marketers that will have major Final Four presence are Capital One, which is title sponsor of Bracket Town, and the Capital One JamFest starring Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band; Coca-Cola, which is overseeing the Coke Zero Countdown concert with headliners Tim McGraw and The Killers; Hershey's Reese's, which is hosting Final Four Friday; and Anheuser-Busch, which is transforming a downtown destination into the Bud Light Hotel.

Looking ahead, the 2015 Final Four will be played in Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, and the 2016 Men's Final Four will return to Houston's Reliant Stadium, and local organizers already have great expectations."

According to Jon Swallen, chief research officer for Kantar Media, "[March Madness is] an ideal event for integrated programs and when used correctly it can be a powerful vehicle for brands."

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