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Television Driving Social Engagement Among March Madness Audiences

A preview of a new study shows that TV is driving specific social conversations in terms of sentiment, engagements and affinities among March Madness audiences.


What: Data company 4C Insights has released a preview of a study that will analyze data from various TV and social media networks over the course of the NCAA Division I basketball tournament, revealing that brands are “already making stronger connections with the March Madness audiences.”
Why It Matters: The study reveals that TV is driving specific social conversations in terms of sentiment, engagements and affinities, providing a boost for brands seeking to stay top-of-mind with March Madness basketball fans.

The NCAA Division I basketball tournament starts today, March 16, and Americans all over the country are filling out their brackets and getting ready to cheer for their favorite college teams during what is one of the country’s most beloved sporting events.

As March Madness fanatics are heading to social media to engage with their teams and fellow fans, a new study from 4C Insights is looking at television ads’ influence on social before, during, and after the tournament. The preview shows that brands are taking advantage, investing more heavily in TV sponsorships during the tournament, which are translating into greater social engagement.

With Sports Fans, TV Ads Drive Social Engagement

The study is looking at which brands are most active on TV through pulling data from proprietary 4C Affinities and  “tracking ads across broadcast and cable networks, covering more than 1,300 U.S. channels in all 210 DMAs,” 4C Insight’s Senior Marketing Manager Bradley Harkrader said.

“4C Hot Facts” are reported as a Social Index that considered the following factors: Among people who engage with March Madness/NCAA basketball on social media, how much more likely are they to engage with each advertiser/brand/restaurant compared to the average population who engage with March Madness/NCAA basketball?

In the tournament preview rankings, Gatorade, Infiniti, Geico, Buffalo Wild Wings and Miller Lite round out the five advertisers with the highest social affinity, KeyBank, TuneIn, Gatorade, Infiniti and Mountain Dew are the top brands, and Wendy’s, Buffalo Wild Wings, Jimmy John’s, Popeye’s and Moe’s Southwest Grill are the top restaurants.MarchMadness_Advertisers_HotFact[23]


The results showed a strong correlation between brands’ activity on television and the levels of social engagement they are seeing. Gatorade, which came in third on the pre-tournament list of top brands for March Madness, has aired 175 ad spots during regular-season NCAA Basketball programming to make sure that the brand got an early start with college basketball fans.

Brands “Will Achieve Big Impacts from their Sponsorships this Tournament” 

The data shows that engagement with NCAA sponsors is tending upwards. Harkrader said, “4C Affinities for the top sponsors is up year-over-year, indicating brands are already making stronger connections with the March Madness audiences.”MarchMadness_Brands_HotFact[16]

Harkrader continued to say that the results of this study should encourage brands hoping to get their money’s worth out of bigger television budgets for the tournament: “It’s a strong indicator that sponsors will achieve big impacts from their sponsorships this tournament.”

Food and Sport Categories Go “Hand-in-Hand”

Notable is that three out of the top five advertisers in the tournament preview are food and beverage brands.MarchMadness_Restaurants_HotFact[18]

“Food and sports go hand-in-hand. Brands that show a strong connection to the March Madness audience would do well to target these audiences and offer promotions related to the games to make sure they’re top of mind for game time,” commented Harkrader.

For the many that do care about the sports teams themselves, Duke is #1 in terms of social engagements (692,559), but it’s sentiment (70%) is much lower than the average, ranking 64 out of the 68 teams. Of the #1 seeds (Villanova, Kansas, North Carolina and Gonzaga), North Carolina has the highest number of engagements (396,195).

With the “big dance” starting just hours from now, we’ll be back with more of the study’s findings from throughout the tournament.

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