How Mad is the Madness?

This year’s NCAA March Madness Collegiate Basketball Tournament, which took place from March 17 to April 6, featured the nation’s best teams competing to become this year’s NCAA Tournament champion.

Aside from the big plays and entertaining games that are highlighted and examined both throughout and after the tournament, it is important to take a look at some aspects that contribute to the events popularity.

Today’s major sporting events and competitions, both professional and collegiate, create a marketing and advertising frenzy when broadcasted on major network television.

Companies vie for commercial slots and advertising space to capitalize on sport popularity, allowing for their products or services to be marketed to vast and varying demographics.

These advertisements and partnerships occur with the goal of increasing the company’s visibility to increase demand for their product, and many companies have come up with unique and entertaining ways to do so through catchy commercials.

With March Madness being such a popular sporting event, it brings into concern the types of products that are being advertised and sponsored, and whether or not it is correct to associate such products, such as Coca-Cola and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, for example, with a major sporting event that is watched by fans of all ages.

In truth, marketing and advertising practices surrounding such a major event like March Madness most likely will not veer from the path of commercial success that it is currently on.

With such a high demand to partner their company with such an event as March Madness, prices for a 30-second commercial in the 2014 tournament averaged around $1.5 million, according to Forbes and Kantar Media.

In turn, the NCAA uses the funds generated by these partnerships to help support March Madness and the 88 other NCAA championships. Revenues from these advertising streams help fund these championships, as well as provide the necessary tools and programs needed in supporting over 400,000 NCAA student-athletes every year.

With commercial interests aside, the question is whether or not it is correct, or should be acceptable for companies promoting unhealthy products to sponsor or partner with a major sporting event such as March Madness.

The regulatory body that oversees the advertising being examined here is the NCAA’s Corporate Champion and Corporate Partner Program, which is “dedicated to excellence and committed to developing marketing and promotional activities surrounding NCAA championships” according to the NCAA website.

This year there were a total of 16 companies that were official partners with the NCAA and the March Madness tournament, and it is important to note that not all of the NCAA official corporate partners represent potentially unhealthy products.

Companies such as AT&T, Capital One, Allstate, Enterprise and Lowe’s all take advantage of their official partnership role and capitalize on the marketing opportunity that the tournament brings about.

However, other official partners of the NCAA, such as Coca-Cola, Burger King, Reese’s and Nabisco all represent products that do not correlate with leading a healthy, active and sport-involved lifestyle.

“It would be hard to make a case to disallow them from doing that,” said Dr. Russell Stockard, a marketing communications professor at California Lutheran University.

“In an ideal world yeah, it’d be great if every sponsor supported a healthy lifestyle,” said Stockard, “but it wouldn’t happen because you’d be down to such a small amount of potential advertisers.”

In the end, what it really comes down to is the point at which we value what is advertised to young and growing consumers, and when we are more willing to ignore commercial gains and interests in order to ensure that unhealthy products aren’t being advertised through such a relevant and popular broadcasted event.

This point at which a change would occur in the advertising practices taking place is seemingly hard to see. Even if one examines the topic objectively, it is difficult to avoid the fact that the companies willing to pay such a large amount of money for advertising space will only be ready and willing to pay even more if there is an attempt to push them out.


Joe Dalecio
Staff Writer
Published April 15th, 2015