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March Madness’ Brand Payoff

March 15, 2012

This week we all become college basketball experts, as the annual rite of passage that is the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament tips off.

Casual fans will spend hours pouring over brackets trying to find obscure facts that will make their matchup selections better than the experts, or at least better than those in their office pool (Bloomberg Businessweek even has a piece on the potential dollars that can be made and lost in online March Madness pools).

As individuals, we look at the numbers. Is there any value for companies?  The NCAA controls the on-court signage for the tournament, but projections show that in early rounds branding value from exterior signs, media impressions and broadcast mentions for arenas equal $1.7million. The second and third-round venues receive additional exposure as media interest increases, making brands like Consol Energy, KFC YUM! Center, Nationwide, CenturyLink , Bridgestone, TD Ameritrade, US Airways and Edward Jones big winners in ancillary brand exposure.  The biggest payoff will fall to Mercedes Benz, whose title sponsorship of the Louisiana Superdome will provide the brand with over $7.1 million in value before the company spends another dollar in advertising.

In a time when every company is looking for added return-on-investment, naming rights provide a great intangible for these brands. There are a number of arenas that don’t currently have brand associations – the New Orleans Arena, Nassau Coliseum on Long Island, and The Palace of Auburn Hills in Michigan, just to name a few. So while we ponder office pools and wonder who will hoist the Championship trophy, it is important to consider the other winners in the game of college basketball.


Chris Lencheski is a frequent contributor to Bloomberg’s Sportfolio and the CEO of Front Row Marketing Services, the Comcast-Spectacor owned arena management and athletic and entertainment brand marketing company based in Philadelphia, Pa.