After two years impacted by the global pandemic, March Madness came roaring back in 2022. Advertising revenues on the men’s side of the tournament hit a record $1 billion, and according to executives from both CBS and Turner Sports, ad inventory completely sold out. Turner Sports President Lenny Daniels sees the success as a sign of “getting back to normal.”
While not quite on the scale of the Super Bowl, which can command several million dollars for a 30-second spot, March Madness spots run from hundreds of thousands of dollars in the early stages to more than $2 million for the NCAA Championship. According to Jon Bogusz, Executive VP of CBS Sports Sales and Marketing, “We’ve written more revenue in this tournament than we ever have before, record-setting revenues for this year. The sports marketplace continues to be very robust.”
CBS and Turner reportedly secured more than 140 advertisers across linear, digital, and social platforms, with more than 35 new advertisers participating this year compared to 2021, when the tournament was held in a bubble. Automotive, insurance, and fast-food categories were particularly strong this year, with movie studios also making a comeback now that theaters are seeing increased attendance.
In 2022, the women’s NCAA basketball tournament was included under the March Madness branding for the first time. According to ESPN, ad inventory on the women’s side sold out as well, with 14 sponsors and 22 advertisers supporting the tournament, including Apple, Adidas, AT&T, Target, and other heavyweights.
Things have gone so well for March Madness that Bogusz anticipates increasing ad pricing in the future. CBS, Turner, and ESPN can command a premium because their viewership is passionate, engaged, and less ad averse than viewers in other categories. According to Interpret’s New Media Measure®, while 55% of the general US population reports a strong dislike for long ads, that figure drops to 52% for both March Madness and general NCAA basketball followers. Moreover, one-third of March Madness followers indicates being okay with long ads if they are relevant, compared to just 28% of the general population.