It’s March. This time each year fair-weather, wannabe sports fans crawl out of the woodwork and start sharpening their pencils to fill out a bracket they may have no business completing. Kids, parents, coworkers and friends gambling their hard earned money, betting that they are going to be the most successful at choosing the best mascot/team color/ranking of various NCAA basketball teams. It’s crazy. It’s fun. It’s an American tradition.
What does this mean to media buyers and planners? It means it’s a good time to buy! The individuals that have put their money where their pencil is will be watching games, checking websites or reading the sports page of the newspaper to update their victories and losses. Advertisers would be silly not to take advantage of all those potential impressions. Reps are aware of this so the onslaught of calls and emails we receive is no surprise.
The NCAA Tournament of Madness is just an example of the power of sports. Buyers are always looking for captive audiences and active viewership opportunities. Those sweet nuggets of time when DVR and On-Demand viewership will not trump the live content on traditional media. Sports are the answer. People want to see their favorite teams play live. They don’t want to have to strategically avoid a television screen, Facebook feed post or radio announcement that will spoil the late viewing of their chosen sporting event. They want to be in on the action.
There are some media buyers are that worry about how sports are holding up. While some declining viewership was shown in 2016, experts are not panicked at all. It was a presidential race year. That sometimes forced people chose one content over the other. ESPN’s senior vice president of global research and analytics, Artie Bulgren, mentioned in an interview for SportsBusinessDaily.com “It’s impossible to suggest that there’s anything going wrong here, particularly in light of the fact that we are in a really odd year in terms of the protracted presidential race, which has captured the attention of Americans going back a year now. Plus, it’s an Olympic year, which clearly had an impact during the summer.”
In fact – in 2016, a whopping 66 of the top 100 rated primetime television programs were sports, even in a presidential year! #1 was Superbowl 50 which led by over 31 MILLION viewers over the #2 slot of the Superbowl 50 Postgame. And it led by 66 MILLION viewers over the #3 slot’s NFC Championship. This means that must-see TV has changed. Live viewership isn’t about a sitcom on Thursday night, it’s about the big game between two rivals. Superbowl, NFC, World Series Championships, Summer Olympics, NBA Finals, etc. etc. etc.
So, rest easy media buying friends. There is “madness” around sports for a reason and the numbers can prove it. Your buys remain a safe bet. Your bracket gambling dollars, however, may be at risk because you chose a Cinderella story 10-seed team winning it all.