Navigating March Madness Marketing: 5 Strategic Channels for Advertisers

Back to Blog - by Shannon Bloemker

This year’s highly-anticipated March Madness will offer advertisers unparalleled opportunities to immerse themselves in the excitement of the tournament. We’ve compiled essential information to help advertisers navigate the upcoming media frenzy and capitalize on opportunities throughout the games. Let’s jump in.

What Was March Madness Viewership Like in 2023?

The 2023 Men’s March Madness Tournament witnessed a remarkable 5% surge in total viewership, captivating a staggering 36 million U.S. households across all games. The championship game had a 13% spike in viewership from 2022, solidifying its status as the most-watched basketball game of the year. Interestingly, 37% of Men’s March Madness viewers tuned in for the Women’s tournament, underscoring the crossover appeal of the two competitions.

On the women’s side, the numbers were equally impressive, with a 71% increase in total viewership compared to the previous year. The championship game drew an average of 9.92 million viewers, peaking at 12.6 million. This not only established it as the most-watched women’s college basketball game to date but also reflected a 65% increase in viewership for the two Final Four contests, averaging 4.5 million viewers. As noted, there’s a strong relationship between men’s and women’s fans. On the women’s side, 76% of viewers were also avid followers of the men’s tournament.

5 Recommendations for Advertisers to Reach March Madness Fans and Viewers

By strategically employing multiple channels, unique creative formats, and key targeting strategies, advertisers can boost brand awareness while fostering meaningful interactions and engagement among basketball fans. Here are five channels that advertisers can use throughout the tournament to create personalized, unique, and impactful brand interactions for consumers.

1. Advanced TV

Streaming TV is vying to dethrone cable and satellite when it comes to fans’ preferred viewing methods. In 2023, 58% of fans tuned into games via cable and satellite whereas 48% chose live TV streaming services. Additionally, 26% of fans watched via the March Madness site or app compounding the impact of non-linear viewing habits.

With the surge in popularity of streaming services and CTV, seize the opportunity to connect with viewers on a personalized level. Tailor campaigns to align seamlessly with March Madness, using in-game integrations and exclusive content sponsorships to capture the attention of engaged audiences.

2. Podcasts through Advanced Audio

Podcast listenership has steadily grown in recent years; currently, more than a quarter of the U.S. population listens to podcasts every week. When it comes to March Madness, there’s no shortage of content as sports takes 4th place for share of weekly listeners.

Podcasts provide a non-intrusive yet highly engaging way to connect with audiences during the tournament. Advertisers can target ads within tournament-related or sports-adjacent content to reach and resonate with passionate March Madness fans.

3. Digital out-of-home (DOOH)

While the digital realm commands attention, advertisers shouldn’t overlook the physical world. DOOH provides an opportunity to capture consumer attention beyond personal screens. Engage viewers on their commutes or at March Madness events through strategically placed billboards and interactive displays. Craft visually compelling ads that align with the spirit of the tournament, ensuring your brand becomes an integral part of the March Madness experience both online and offline.

4. Retail Media Networks

Collaborating with retail platforms during March Madness offers a direct avenue to align advertising efforts with consumers’ purchasing journeys. Strategically position your brand on retail media platforms, leveraging targeted advertising to feature special promotions or exclusive March Madness-themed products. By meeting consumers at the intersection of their shopping intent and March Madness enthusiasm, your brand can seamlessly integrate into the purchasing path, resulting in heightened engagement and conversion.

5. TikTok

TikTok offers advertisers a wide array of creative and dynamic advertising opportunities to reach 108 million TikTok users in the U.S. Brands can reach diverse and younger audiences with tailored strategies to seamlessly integrate into March Madness conversations on TikTok. With seemingly endless creative opportunities, brands can creative formats to foster engagement and make lasting impressions. Consider some of the following ideas:

  • Promote interactive challenges to boost user engagement
  • Collaborate with influencers for authentic connections
  • Share March Madness moments through short-form videos
  • Utilize AR challenge filters for interactive experiences
  • Introduce exclusive offers to drive excitement and conversion.

The upcoming March Madness Tournament promises great opportunities for advertisers to immerse themselves in the tournament’s excitement. As we’ve explored the 2023 tournament’s substantial viewership and strategic recommendations for engagement across diverse channels, now, it’s time for advertisers to grab the ball and score big.

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