Is March Madness The New Super Bowl?

  • by , Op-Ed Contributor, April 13, 2016
TV ad spend on basketball’s March Madness is second only to football’s postseason numbers. A 30-second spot in the 2015 NCAA Championship game averaged $1.56 million, according to data from Kantar Media, compared to $4.4 million for a 30-second Super Bowl spot.

So the question becomes: Can marketers get more bang for their buck with March Madness campaigns? And do they even need to spend on TV to make the most of March Madness?

A Super Bowl TV advertiser is almost guaranteed earned viewership online, between publishers aggregating playlists of all the Super Bowl ads and those who missed the ads in-game seeking them out online. March Madness does not experience the same effect; no one claims to watch the games “for the commercials.”

Allstate’s “#MarchMayhem” spots, which have aired nationally over 700 times, according to data from iSpotTV, have racked up only 59,000 views online. It’s possible that overexposure on TV, unlike the one-time airing of Super Bowl ads, means viewers aren’t opting to watch the content again online.

However, this doesn’t mean March Madness won’t provide opportunities for online engagement. This year, we saw many brands without TV support compete with actual Super Bowl advertisers in online viewership.

Ritz’s online-only Super Bowl campaign racked up enough viewership that, when compared against the online viewership of aired TV spots, it would have placed 5th on the list of highest viewed 2016 Super Bowl campaigns.

 Similarly, by being smart with their online pushes, brands can have a big impact without TV support for March Madness.

Acura’s 2016 March Madness campaign, “Celebrating Performance,” was online only and pulled in 27.2 million views, beating out the brand’s Super Bowl ad, which aired during the game and achieved only18.3 million views. The brand’s March Madness campaign was smart and relevant, promoting a bracket-style tournament of top viral basketball videos. Making it a contest where viewers vote for their favorite clips was highly effective at driving engagement and allowed this campaign to grab the top spot for the most-viewed March Madness campaign online.

Coming in second place for March Madness was a Dove Men+Care campaign that combined limited TV support (only six national airings) with a big push online. This netted the “Bonds of #RealStrength” campaign with over 8.3 million views. The brand also stood out by taking an inspirational approach to the creative, contrasting with more prevalent funny ads.

Because March Madness lasts for a longer period of time than the Super Bowl, there are advantages and disadvantages for marketers. Scarcity works in marketers’ favor for the Super Bowl, with viewers seeking out the content online for second viewings, resulting in a lot of earned viewership. However, the longer time period and less noise surrounding March Madness allows for online-only campaigns to easily hijack the conversation.

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