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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: March 14, 2024
Tips for March Madness Advertising image

For six weeks in March and April, millions of Americans get caught up in the NCAA Basketball Championships. They get so caught up that companies lost worker productivity to the tune of $17.3 billion during 2023’s tournament as employees watched the games live, replayed highlights, checked stats, and, most above all, filled out 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. 

Massive Viewership 

We know that live events like The Oscars and sporting events like the Super Bowl draw huge audiences via broadcast and streaming television. In the first three months of 2024, we’ve seen:  

  • 123.7 million Super Bowl viewers across broadcast and streaming platforms, becoming the most-viewed event since the moon landing.  
  • 16.9 million viewers of The Grammy’s viewership (up 34% from 2023).  
  • 9.4 million viewers of The Golden Globes (a 50% increase from 2023). 
  • The NASCAR viewership is up 19% over 2023, with the Cup Series race from Phoenix Raceway amassing more than 4 million viewers on FOX.    
  • Interestingly, a PGA Golf rerun of Pebble Beach, where Wyndham Clark set a course record in his winning moment, amassed more than 1.21 million viewers on CBS 

But for March Madness in 2023, the story was the rise in viewership of the Women’s Tournament. (It’s also interesting to note that the newly formed Professional Women’s Hockey League is consistently breaking its viewership and attendance records, reinforcing that viewership of women’s sports is growing.) 

ESPN reports that the women’s championship game between Louisiana State and Iowa saw more than 9.9 million viewers, setting the record for the most-watched women’s college basketball game and the most streamed sporting event (women’s or men’s) on ESPN+ to date.  

The men’s tournament, meanwhile, saw a slight viewership decline from 2022 but still reached 71.3 million adults via linear TV. The championship game between the Connecticut Huskies and the San Diego State Aztecs was still the most-viewed basketball game of the year, with 14.6 million viewers on a Monday night. 

An Overview of the March Madness Audience 

Knowing your target audience is key to any sports marketing campaign, and we’ve got a few insights to help update your persona profiles 


The most recent MRI Simmons Report highlights the following about March Madness viewers’ demographics:  


  • 66% male 
  • 34% female

  • 46% aged 55+  
  • 16% aged 45-54  
  • 15% aged 35-44  
  • 15% aged 25-34  
  • 8% aged 18-24 
Race & Ethnicity

  • 92% Non-Hispanic
  • 77% White 
  • 16% African American
  • 8% Hispanic

  • 74% own a home 
  • 59% are married 
  • 56% own a pet 
  • 30% have children in the household 
  • 24% rent their home


Household Income  

  • 32% make $75K 
  • 23% make $150K-$250K 
  • 23% make $100K-$150K 
  • 13% make $75K-$100K 
  • 10% make $250K or more 

  • 25% graduated college 
  • 25% have some college 
  • 25% graduated high school  
  • 20% are postgraduate 
  • 5% didn’t graduate high school

Viewing Channels and Platforms 

Statista surveyed March Madness viewers in the US and found that in 2024: 

  • 48% of respondents intend to watch the competition on TV.  
  • 29% plan to watch the tournament’s coverage on streaming services such as Hulu, Sling TV, and Paramount+. 

It’s also interesting to look at time spent with March Madness content. A 2024 OnePoll survey of 2,000 basketball fanatics, ages 21+, found 36 hours will be spent “completely consumed” by basketball during March Madness. Here’s a breakdown of those 36 hours:  

  • 13 hours spent watching games 
  • 3 hours creating brackets 
  • 5 hours discussing games with family and friends 
  • 5 hours engaging with online content 
  • 5 hours watching highlights 
  • 3 hours of placing bets 

Loyal and Engaged Fans

According to data from the Intercollegiate Fan Report, there are approximately 182 million college sports fans in the US, and this fan base is fiercely loyal and strongly engaged with their teams. The OnePoll survey found:  

  • 88% of fans will likely stay loyal to their team and will watch every second of their games, even if they’re losing big. 
  • 47% are die-hard fans who will sport their team’s apparel while watching other games. 
  • 41% will passionately always root against their rival. 
  • 46% will hope for a miracle or stay confident until there are no other options (45%) when their team is losing, compared to leaving the room (10%) or putting on a different game (9%). 
  • 54% are so loyal to their favorite team that they have never placed bets against their favorite and never will. 

Wait, there’s more. March Madness games have also affected the professional and social lives of some, as they prefer to watch games live on appointment TV rather than other obligations:

  • 26% admit they’ve skipped work to watch a March Madness game 
  • 17% have canceled dates 
  • 17% have missed birthday parties 

Spending Power

Thanks to MRI Simmons data, we know that 32% of the March Madness audience makes $75K or less per year, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t willing to spend for the event as “fanatics are willing to spend a whopping $570 on their overall March Madness experience this year,” according to OnePoll. 

Additionally, WalletHub found that during the tournament:  

  • Fans consume 2.3 billion chicken wings during the tournament, and orders for chicken wings increase by 23% during the games. 
  • Beer sales increased by 19% 
  • There’s a 19% increase in pizza sales and a 9% increase in dessert orders by fans after losses vs. wins  

Sports Betting

Wagers on games take a big chunk of fans’ spending power, thanks to the rise in legal sports betting platforms. According to Forbes, Americans wagered $16 billion on the championship game and $15.5 billion on the rest of the tournament in 2023. Digging deeper into the numbers, the American Gaming Association found:  

  • 68 million Americans wagered on March Madness in 2023. 
  • 31 million bettors placed traditional bets online, at a sportsbook or with a bookie. 
  • 21.5 million bet casually with friends. 
  • 56.3 million participated in a bracket contest 
  • 75% of bettors said 2023 was their first time betting on March Madness. 

March Madness Advertising Ideas  

Constructing an effective media plan is important when aligning 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 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.  

Additionally, local broadcast news stations are the most trusted channels for informing Americans about what’s happening in their communities. Thanks to the halo effect, these local audiences will positively associate your brand with the local, trusted news channel. After all, local news has emerged as one of the safest environments for advertisers and is a proven and powerful vessel for brand messaging.​ According to the IAB, 84% of consumers feel that advertising within news increases or maintains brand trust, and 45% are more likely to visit the brand’s website or search for more information online.       

Streaming Advertising 

Sports and streaming audiences are continuing to trend upward. In 2023, Roku found a 23% and 19% year-over-year increase in streaming reach in the Women’s and Men’s tournaments, respectively.  

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

  • Unduplicated Audience: When adding a second platform to your campaign, you may be worried that your ad is being shown to the same audience. On average, our friends at PREMION deliver 85% unduplicated reach – meaning only 15% of the CTV and OTT viewers also saw the ad on broadcast TV.
  • Advanced Targeting: Capture audiences that can’t be reached through broadcast alone—like cord-cutters, cord-nevers, and those who watch on gaming consoles or through streaming sticks, CTVs, or laptops. With streaming TV advertising, you can also narrow target audiences based on DMA or geography, from regions and states to ZIP codes, consumer trends such as interests, intenders, in-market shoppers, and more.
  • Measurable Results: Linear and streaming TV ad campaign results can now be measured with a tool like TEGNA Attribution. This measurement tool allows our partners to measure the effectiveness of their TV and OTT campaigns by connecting viewing behaviors to engagement metrics, such as website visits, app downloads, and more.  

All the benefits of broadcast TV are also available on streaming TV. Not only are news, weather, and sports available on streaming, but there is also a handful of high-quality and feel-good holiday content for viewers to enjoy.  For example, TEGNA’s streaming apps, such as 11Alive+ and WTHR1,3+, offer a new generation of ad-supported streaming apps with 24/7 access to breaking live and on-demand local news, newscast replays, extended live coverage, weather, and station specials and investigations. Additionally, on-demand content from the Locked On Podcast Network, VERIFY, Daily Blast LIVE, True Crime Network, and Quest is available.  

Digital Advertising

Teaming up with the right local media partner, your brand can: 

  • Create clickable display ads, which is essential to any online campaign.  
  • Leverage geofencing and geotargeting to ensure you reach the right audiences in the right areas. 
  • Deploy native advertising for better engagement and ad recall. According to Sharethrough, consumers are 53% more likely to look at native ads than display ads, have an 18% lift in purchase intent, and, according to AppNexus, have an 8.8x higher click-through rate.  
  • Use contextual targeting to reach the right audience in a cookieless world by leveraging a page’s content to determine the most appropriate placement of an advertisement. This form of advertising can also help brands improve what they are associated with (for example, if a beer company wants to be associated with sports). 


Broadcast 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 marketers 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 they 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 like TEGNA Attribution, 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 the 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.  

The Buzzer Beater 

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 TEGNA offers, your brand can 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/CTV 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 like Sports Report. 

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. 

Want to know more about creating a sports marketing campaign? Be sure to check out:  

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