March Madness Registers Record Sales With Prices Up Mid- To High-Single Digits

Jim Nantz Bill Self March Madness 2022
CBS's Jim Nantz (l.) with Kansas coach Bill Self after last year's NCAA tournament. Nantz will be announcing his last March Madness this year (Image credit: Photo by Lance King/Getty Images)

Advertisers continue to be mad for March Madness, with the NCAA Men’s College Basketball Tournament drawing record revenue, according to executives from Paramount Global and Warner Bros. Discovery, which team up to televise the event.

Despite a generally soft TV ad market, this year’s sales revenue for the tournament has already surpassed last year’s record level, according to John Diament, executive VP, advertising sales at Warner Bros. Discovery. Prices for 30-second commercials are up by mid-to-high single-digit percentages on a cost-per-thousand viewer (CPM) basis, Diament said.

Last year, spots in the tournament's championship game sold for more than $2 million.

Commercial inventory is “virtually” sold out, added John Bogusz, executive VP, CBS Sports sales at Paramount Advertising. He said inventory is very tight during the first weekend. There are a few spots available as the tournament gets down to the Sweet Sixteen. The Final Four weekend and the championship game, airing on CBS, are just about sold out, he said. 

A few spots are reserved for makegoods to ensure that all advertiser reach the number of viewers they are guaranteed.

Also Read: March Madness Scores Big for Advertisers: Effectv Study

Paramount and WBD start with a leg up because the NCAA has 17 official sponsors who buy media time in the tournament, with games on CBS, TBS, TNT and truTV. 

The top — champion — sponsors are Capital One, Coca-Cola and and halftime sponsor AT&T. The other NCAA corporate sponsors are Aflac, Buffalo Wild Wings, Buick, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Great Clips, Invesco, LG, Marriott, Nabisco, Nissan, Pizza Hut, Reese’s, Unilever and Wendy’s.

Among the strong categories are autos, quick service restaurants, movies and technology.

Diament noted that the tournament tent to reach an upscale demographic. 

Bogusz added that the live nature of sports continues to attract viewers and entrall advertisers. 

Paramount’s CBS has the next Super Bowl. “We’re open for business,” Bogusz said.

Nearly all of the advertisers on the TV broadcasts are also sponsors of March Madness on Demand, where the tournament games are streamed online. “Demand for those types of digital products is through the roof,” Diament said.

This year's March Madness will be the last for Jim Nantz, the veteran CBS sportscaster who has hosted the tournament for decades. It's likely that Nantz and popular Turner Sports personalities including Charles Barkley will show up in commercials and integrations. ■

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.