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For college basketball fans, no month is more sacred than March. Affectionately referred to as March Madness, this tournament pits 64 teams against one another to determine a national champion. In recent years, the tournament has skyrocketed in popularity due to the prominence of streaming services offered by CBS, whose app was downloaded 4.5 million times in 2014 alone.
While this month-long tournament costs employers an estimated $1.2 billion per hour of lost productivity, it’s a boon for advertisers. One advertiser in particular, Capital One, is entering its fifth year as a major corporate sponsor of the tournament. What compels them to do so? Let’s take a look.
The first step to every March Madness is the bracket. The NCAA ranks and seeds all 64 teams in the official bracket according to their performance throughout the year, while fans fill out brackets with their own predictions as well. Fans completed more than 60 million brackets in 2014.
Many of those brackets included the logos of top corporate sponsors, including Capital One. Brackets are then referenced throughout the entirety of the month-long tournament to track results and compete in office pools, making them—and the logos they feature—the centerpiece of the tournament.
If the “Boss Button” rings a bell, you’re not alone. According to Turner Sports, March Madness games were streamed 49 million times last year, representing a 26% growth year over year, with 82% of streams coming from desktops. These stats become significant to employers when one considers that most March Madness games are played during the week, sapping productivity from millions of businesses.
But sponsors such as Capital One should rejoice. After all, every stream is preceded by sponsored messages and is accompanied by corporate logos on every viewing window.
Ultimately, Capital One cares about the performance of March Madness primarily insofar as it benefits their brand. Did their sponsorship provide a brand lift? On Fullscreen’s Channel+ team, we often examine user-generated content (UGC) on YouTube as a strong predictor of a brand’s presence online. As it turns out, Capital One has seen an increase in UGC videos and views every year they’ve sponsored the NCAA basketball tournament, achieving more than 8.5 million views of fan content in 2014. Additionally, 37% of fans correctly identified Capital One as the official credit card sponsor, outpacing all other sponsors.
In our estimation, Capital One has struck gold with their March Madness sponsorship. As more and more fans adjust their viewing habits online, in addition to time-shifting their viewership to YouTube and beyond, sponsorships like March Madness will continue to pay dividends for the brands involved.