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March mADness
By: Michael Lindquist
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Now that March is upon us, advertisers are directing their attention to another national sporting event: March Madness. The NCAA tournament follows shortly after the Super Bowl and is actually seeded second in ad spending behind the NFL post-season. The lucrative month-long event has generated over $4.8 billion since 2001. With over 280 different marketers, March Madness generates more revenue than the NBA and MLB playoffs as well as college Bowl season. Every advertiser will reach for that one shining moment, but they will have to break through the clutter with clever ads and engaging content. 

Most basketball fans have already begun following Joe Lunardi's Bracketology, but millions of fans will fill out at least one bracket for the 2012 Tournament. ESPN reported that it had received more than 5.9 million bracket entries for the Men's 2011 NCAA Tournament, which is good news considering that ESPN will not cover any games throughout the tournament. The bracket challenge allows ESPN to remain relevant during a time when they are not directly involved with the coverage. Advertisers are attempting to accomplish the same feat by sponsoring their own bracket challenge to engage with the viewers on and off the court.  

March Madness brings big business to the cities that are fortunate enough to be chosen as hosting sites. There are a number of industries that also benefit from the madness including hotels, airlines, rental car services, and bars and restaurants across the nation. So whom should we expect to see on TV throughout the month of March? And I'm not talking about the Wildcats or the Jayhawks. Which brands will we see over and over again? In the past, auto and insurance companies have dominated commercial breaks, but there is also plenty of time for restaurants. Certain advertisements will be prohibited or limited to protect the image of the NCAA. 

Several organizations including the NCAA have set limitations and restrictions on the number of alcohol advertisements allowed during the college tournament. For years, the NCAA has banned alcohol sales and advertising from the venues that host the championship games. There will be a small percentage of alcohol advertisements, but that does not mean beer sales will be down. Beer and sports go together like peanut butter and jelly, but that is the problem the NCAA is trying to rectify. 

Another brand directly associated with sports that we will not see much advertising from is Nike. What?! No Nike commercials? Nike does not need commercials during March Madness, because the entire tournament is a Nike commercial. The 2011 NCAA Tournament had 51 out of the 68 teams sporting the Nike swoosh. Nike can save some money on production and let the teams act as moving, dribbling, dunking advertisements.

The 2012 NCAA Tournament will be full of excitement, sales, and spending, but advertisers need to be creative in their approach as to not be annoying during the month-long event. Many viewers have complained in the past about seeing the same commercials over and over, and although that means multiple impressions and frequency to advertisers, no brand is interested in turning people off because of an annoying presence. Television audiences have the ability to switch to another game as soon as a timeout is called or watch games online, so advertisers are discovering new ways to interact with the fans. There is no reason why the Super Bowl should hold all the advertising praise. March Madness has a national following for three whole weeks and a big finish to conclude one of the greatest sporting events of the year. Let the madness begin.

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About the Author
Michael Lindquist has a strong passion for art, entertainment, and advertising. As a child, he learned it was okay to color outside the lines, because the lines only restrict your creativity and imagination. Find him online here.
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