March Madness: The Number One Seed in Ad Spend


As March Madness tips off this week, the first round teams lace up to step on the court, and employees in offices across the country prepare their brackets, we are reminded of the marketing power behind mega sporting events and why it’s important to begin thinking about them as immense marketing opportunities.

Big events typically draw big advertising budgets, and this year’s March Madness NCAA basketball tournament expects to drive upwards of $1.2 billion in advertising revenue, according to Kantar Media. Ad revenue from March Madness is also rapidly growing, increasing 8.21% each year since 2006. This places March Madness first among big league sporting events like Super Bowl ($450 million for 2016), World Cup ($600 million in 2014), and Olympics ($1 billion expected for 2016) (Forbes). With that kind of growth in dollars, advertiser demand is also extremely high. In 2015, 95% of digital and TV inventory was sold out a week ahead of the three-week long March Madness games (AdAge). Advertisers are also spending more on digital than ever before, while maintaining TV ad budgets (eMarketer).

While ad spending is rising and shifting digitally, brands and advertisers still need to ensure that target consumers are having quality content experiences on the devices they use. This means that advertisers need to develop more compelling, integrated marketing campaigns across multiple channels (e.g. social and video) and platforms (e.g. mobile and desktop), especially as game viewers switch from screen to screen. A high-quality experience also means advertisers need to place those messages on premium publisher sites.

Private marketplaces (PMPs) are an avenue into high-quality inventory. PubMatic’s Q4 Quarterly Mobile Index Report (QMI) found that around the holiday shopping season, advertisers targeted mobile consumers by directing ad spending to PMPs, primarily because of the higher-quality inventory bundles, better targeting capabilities and a more transparent buying environment.

As the tournament begins, media buyers need to plan ahead and be prepared to leverage upcoming events as opportunities, such as UEFA Euro 2016 Soccer Tournament, Olympics, kick-offs for pro and college football season, and back to school shopping. All it takes is some unique ad creative run across premium publisher sites. We’re not sure who will win this year’s tournament, but we’re certain that advertising will have a major impact!

To learn more about incorporating mobile into your digital advertising strategy, download our Q4 QMI here and check back for our Q1 2016 QMI next month.

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