Study: For NCAA Tournament Advertisers, Less Was More

What: Data company 4C Insights has released a study analyzing data from various TV and social media networks over the course of the NCAA Division I basketball tournament, revealing that less was more when it came to ad spend.
Why It Matters: Some of the most successful brands ran few ad spots, but saw significant increases in social engagement. Sponsors saw increased lifts on social media as the tournament rounds progressed, revealing the correlation between effective tv advertising and brand lift on social.

Data company 4C Insights tracked the relationship between ad spending and brand lift on social over the course of the NCAA Division I basketball tournament, revealing interesting insight on the correlation between ad spend on TV and social lift.

Over the tournament, Twitter was the most popular social network for fans, as there were over more tha040417_MarchMadnessIII_TIMELINE_DRAFT4 (1)n a million engagements compared to Facebook’s 718,435. 

Over the course of March Madness, 4C Insights analyzed the likelihood a consumer is to engage with a brand on social within two minutes after their March Madness ad aired, known as TV social lift. Looking at the top 20 brands that aired at least 10 spots, Capital One and Geico spent the most ad dollars on more than 160 spots each, but only saw moderate lifts in social engagements and TV social engagement. Acura saw the highest TV social lift, with 1491% lift as a result of
just 37 ad spots. Pizza Hut saw 100k social engagements with only 50 ad spots.

“Throughout March Madness sponsors have been seeing their initiatives pay off with increasing lifts on social media as the rounds progressed. Capital One achieved a 70% lift in social engagement or more from its March Madness TV ads in every round of the tournament,” Bradley Harkrader, 4C’s Senior Manager of Marketing said.

The study also gathered highlights from the championship game, looking at how social engagement on Twitter and Facebook changed during the two minutes after an ad ran on TV. Bud Light had the most successful ad that night even though they spent the least, seeing 24,782% more engagements on social over those two minutes. Coca-Cola, however, spent more on ads to see the least social engagement: 12 ads with more than five minutes of ad time resulted in the least amount of social engagement lift. Volkswagen, Buick, DirecTV and Hardees also saw significant social engagement lift.

Harkrader observed that “a couple brands used the NCAA Championship stage to make big statements,” citing the example of Hardee’s, which announced a new marketing direction focused on its food, and as a result, “the championship spot drove a 1,079% social media brand engagement lift.”

Looking at some of the most popular ads over the tournament, Bud Light’s “Happy Hour with Coworkers” achieved an impressive 24,782% lift in social engagements for the brand.