Sponsorship Essentials: March Madness Edition!

By: Claire Lingley 

It’s March and that means one thing: March Madness baby!  Not only is this an exciting time for the 64 teams vying for their spot as champion, but corporations and companies are also vying for the top spot in sponsorship.  Given that the 2017 NCAA March Madness tournament was the most watched in 24 years, paired with record-setting digital consumption, this competition for sponsorship means more than ever.  It may be only the beginning, but here are our Final Four predictions for the 2018 NCAA’s March Madness Tournament: Sponsorship Edition.

Capital One, AT&T, and Coca-Cola:  As the three top tier corporate sponsors, aptly named the “Champion” sponsors, March Madness viewers will see hundreds upon hundreds of their commercials throughout this tournament (my personal favourite featured here, can't go wrong with Samuel L Jackson crooning on your TV), paired with their name and logo branded throughout week.  From “Capital One’s NCAA March Madness Bracket Challenge”  to Coca Cola’s  “Sip. Scan. Score. Your way to March Madness” it is no question that these corporations will stand at the forefront of March Madness sponsorships. 

Nike:  This year, 44 of the 64 teams will be decked out in head-to-toe Nike branded uniforms. If my calculations are correct, the chances that the actual Final Four and furthermore, the crowning champ themselves, will be showing off that swoosh is looking pretty good!

Google Cloud:  Now known as “The Official Cloud of the NCAA”.  The end of last year saw the formation of an exciting new multi-year partnership between Google Cloud and the NCAA; NCAA’s 80+ years of historical and play-by-play-data, from 90 championships and 24 sports, is now being held and run on the Google Cloud Platform.  This is a big deal for colleges and universities, athletic teams, and fan bases alike, as they now have access to this data in ways unlike ever before. With an estimated 40 million Americans filling out brackets, and probably most* of them doing so using some sort of data and analytics, it is no surprise that this year’s March Madness will serve as the perfect platform to show off this new partnership.

Buick:  As a long time partner of the NCAA for quite some time now, Buick is stepping up its game when it comes to this year’s March Madness tournament. Not only will it offer it’s vehicle owners a free month of its AT&T-provided embedded 4G LTE data, allowing fans to access both the men’s and women’s championship games throughout the tournament, but it is also showcasing a new special NCAA Tournament app where Buick owners can listen to live audio feeds from various games playing throughout the month. 

With sponsorship spending on college athletics excepted to reach a total of $1.24 billion in the 2017-2018 season, a 4.5% increase over 2017, and the overall sports sponsor spend in 2018 expected to rise 4.9% versus last year, the sponsorship industry shows no sign of slowing down.  And while we seem to be seeing the same companies and corporations over and over dominating sponsorships in the big tournaments, just as every one knows in March Madness, you can never rule out the underdogs: case in point, UMBC defeating number one seed Virginia this weekend.

Hope everyone enjoys this year’s March Madness! I’ll be joining what I’m sure are the hundreds of thousands of people who saw their chances of winning their own office’s March Madness Bracket Challenge going down the drain with Virginia’s loss. Here's looking at next year to clench that win!