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Tips for March Madness Advertising

March Madness presents a BIG opportunity for advertisers to take full advantage of this undefeated concentration of consumer eyeballs. Learn more.

Meredith Cunningham Published: February 24, 2023
Tips for March Madness Advertising image

Tips for March Madness Advertising

For six weeks, starting in March, millions of Americans get caught up in March Madness. They get so caught up that companies lose worker productivity to the tune of $13.8 billion during 2021’s tournament as employees watch the games, review the highlights, check stats, and, most importantly, fill out their brackets. 

With all these eyes on the tournament that starts with 68 teams and ends with one champion, there’s a real opportunity for brands to reach a massive audience with their advertising.

An Overview of the March Madness Audience

“Whoever is watching March Madness is in it for the duration. They’re not just tuned into the hometown team. They’re tuned into every game,” said Paul Ballinger, former Director of Sales at 10TV in Columbus, Ohio.

For advertisers, March Madness presents plenty of good opportunities to do three things.

  1. Reach a Coveted Audience: According to WalletHub, an estimated 73 percent of March Madness viewers are also local news-watchers, almost half have a household income of $100K or more, and 51 percent are aged 25 to 54.
  2. With Frequency: From Selection Sunday to the championship game on April 5, the tournament gives an advertiser the ability to get a lot of frequency and exposure to a very unique audience over the course of about three weeks.
  3. And good creative: Because the stage is so big, you don’t want to run any old creative. According to Diane Daugherty, Director of Sales at KREM, “The more you can stand out, particularly with an audience like this, the better off you’re going to be.”

Benefits of Advertising During March Madness

 1. High Viewership

Just how massive is the March Madness audience? It’s an audience that’s getting bigger every year. Last year’s championship game between Kansas and North Carolina drew 18.1 million viewers, which is up from the 2021 tournament in which 16.9 million U.S. viewers watched the 2021 championship between Baylor and Gonzaga – and those are just the championship games. 

2. Dedicated Fans & High Engagement

According to data from the Intercollegiate Fan Report, there are approximately 182 million college sports fans worldwide, making it the most extensive fan base in the U.S. over the NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL. Why? Professional teams are tethered to specific cities, limiting fandom to those locations. But college students come from all over the country, and as alumni, they take their fandom, tradition, and rivalries back home and relocate to other areas of the country.

Additionally, Nielsen’s Method Behind March Madness report found:

  •   1 in 5 would miss a work meeting to watch a game​
  •   65% of those who plan to watch at work will do so even if explicitly warned not to​
  •   7% would miss a funeral​
  •   6% would miss a wedding​
  •   1 in 10 say they would miss the birth of their child to watch a game​

 3. Spending Power

College sports fans are much more likely to be in the 35-64-year-old age range than the general population, and 51% of the March Madness audience is between the ages 25-54 and is most likely to be college-educated males. However, 42% of college sports fans are female. Other findings from MRI-Simmons include:

  • Almost half of March Madness fans have $100K+ HHI.
  • There’s a 75% increase in indoor restaurant capacity ahead of the tournament.
  • Orders for chicken wings increase by 23% during the games.

March Madness Advertising Ideas

“Advertising around local teams reaffirms a brand’s place in the community,” says Dave Neway, VP of Ad Sales Marketing at TEGNA. “The tournament offers advertisers a lot of frequency and exposure to a valuable audience, and by aligning with the unique content opportunities that TEGNA offers, your brand has an opportunity to be the talk of the town.” 

Constructing an effective media plan is important when trying to align your brand with March Madness. If you’re a brand looking to connect with fans, below are some ideas on how to reach these audiences: 

TV Advertising & Local News Broadcasts

While we have seen growth in streaming services, Broadcast television still accounts for nearly ¼ of media consumption among US viewers – and is the destination for viewers seeking local sports coverage. In fact, 87% of March Madness viewers prefer to watch games at home, and 73% watch local TV news. This presents a significant opportunity to reach audiences that are turning in for local and regional coverage of the hometown teams. TV advertising is an effective way to connect with audiences and drive brand awareness. 

Streaming Advertising

Sports and streaming audiences are trending upwards, as 2022 saw an 85% increase in those watching March Madness games live on Roku devices, and 1 billion minutes were streamed in the tournament’s first two days.

With audience viewing habits more dispersed than ever, advertisers could miss out on reaching a valuable portion of their target audience. Adding Streaming TV advertising to the marketing mix alongside TV Broadcast and digital elements is a valuable way to expand the local reach and hit target audiences on multiple screens.

Digital Advertising

With multiple digital ad types to choose from – Video, Static, Animated, Banner, Sponsored, Display, and Native Content – these ads can help tell a brand’s story, create awareness, extend reach, increase website traffic, and hit a highly targeted audience.   

Reach consumers whenever and however they decide. From looking up a weather report at 5 a.m., checking the traffic before coming home at 6 p.m., or receiving a breaking news notification on their smartphone during the middle of the day, an advertiser has multiple opportunities to reach an expanded, interested, and engaged audience.


Linear TV ads within live games remain one of the most popular and effective ways to reach sports fans, but what happens to advertisers who find the cost of producing a TV ad too burdensome? Advertising within Podcast content quickly becomes a full-service media experience with a hyper-local focus or national reach.

Podcasting lets you tap into live endorsements and firsthand reviews from a trusted voice they trust, with 49% of listeners believing that hosts use the products they mention, providing instant trust and credibility with the consumers you want to reach. Additionally, the Edison Research Podcast Super Listener Report found that 86% of people who frequently listen to podcasts say they recall ads on podcasts more than any other channel, even more than social media.

Measuring the Results of Your March Madness Campaigns

What would the March Madness games be like if we didn’t keep score? If you’re not measuring the results of your marketing campaigns, you’re not keeping score. You’ll want to connect viewing behaviors to engagement metrics such as website visits, app downloads, and more. With an effective measurement solution, you will know who saw an ad and visited your website. This data can then be used to:

  • Prove the value of TV/OTT schedules in driving business results
  • Quantify reach extension of Streaming campaigns
  • Make optimization decisions
  • Maximize the effectiveness of campaigns

An Example of March Madness Advertising


Video advertising is a powerful medium that can reach big, little, and second screens through TV, streaming, and digital. At TEGNA, we’ve partnered with several big brands on content sponsorship spots, developing customized programs and contests to align with March Madness. One example is Jim White Honda in Toledo. Knowing the popularity of NCAA brackets during the tournament, the local auto dealer teamed up with TEGNA’s WTOL for Bracket Challenge. In this program, fans are encouraged to fill out their bracket on a TEGNA station’s website for chances to win a million dollars. 

Final Thoughts

Advertising around local teams reaffirms a brand’s place in the community, and the March Madness tournament offers advertisers a lot of frequency and exposure to a valuable audience. By aligning with the unique content opportunities that TEGNA offers, your brand has an opportunity to be the talk of the town.

TEGNA delivers proven results through simplified multi-platform advertising solutions that connect your business to the audiences that matter most via Broadcast TV, OTT Streaming Advertising, and Digital Solutions, including Targeted Display & Retargeting,​ as well as campaign measurement ​and optimization with ​TEGNA Attribution. TEGNA stations also offer a variety of sports advertising and customizable content sponsorships that include Bracket Mayhem, Full Court Fever, and Game Day Guru, as illustrated above.

If you’re thinking of amplifying your brand’s March Madness efforts or looking to join TEGNA affiliates in their efforts to serve the greater good of our communities, let’s get in touch.

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