When John Bogusz told reporters that more than 90% of the March Madness advertisers who’d had their spring marketing plans disrupted by the cancellation of the 2020 tournament were suited up for this year’s event, he wasn’t just talking through his hat.
Bogusz, who serves as executive VP, sports sales and marketing for CBS Network Sales, said earlier this month that nearly all the clients thwarted by the pandemic freeze-out had hopped right back into the fray as soon as the NCAA announced that a less travel-intensive staging of the men’s hoops tourney would take tip off at the usual time. Confirming that just a handful of units remained available in the primetime Final Four broadcast and the April 5 championship game, Bogusz said the quick sell-off was a function of a whole lot of familiar faces spending even more money than they’d budgeted for 2019.
“We do have some attrition, but by and large most of them have come back, which is why we’re as tight as we are right now,” Bogusz said, before adding that the seismic upheaval in the movie business accounted for some of those rare no-shows. The studios that have been most conspicuous by their absence during the March Madness air breaks include Marvel, which through the first two rounds of the 2019 tourney had invested $3.11 million on 29 in-game units, per iSpot.tv data. Also pulling a Claude Rains is Annapurna Pictures, which had spent $1.62 million on 20 units that aired during the first week of the last pre-COVID tournament.
At this time two years ago, CBS and the Turner networks had booked $6.83 million in theatrical promos, an outlay that swelled to $8.63 million if you include the nine spots purchased by Amazon Prime Video and the four ads Netflix ran for something called Triple Frontier. (Your guess is as good as ours.)
For reasons that don’t call for a whole lot of explanation, March Madness movie spend this year is down to just two studios (Universal Pictures, Warner Bros.) and $3.23 million. Toss the Disney+ miniseries The Falcon and the Winter Soldier into the mix, and the entertainment spend thus far adds up to some $5.71 million, or about 34% shy of where things stood at this juncture in 2019.
Another category that has more or less vanished into thin air like Ice Cube at the end of Boyz n the Hood is travel, which had poured $4.5 million into the first two rounds of the previous tourney. But these two segments are outliers; usual suspects (and NCAA corporate partners) AT&T, Coca-Cola, Capital One, Allstate, Buick, Geico, State Farm, Pizza Hut and Buffalo Wild Wings are all present and accounted for this spring, and the only no-show was effectively benched by the home office back in October 2019. While Infiniti was the fourth-biggest spender in that year’s tourney, the marque was swapped out of the rotation to give sibling nameplate Nissan more time in the spotlight.
Before the tournament tipped off in Indianapolis last week, Bogusz said pricing for each round of live coverage was up compared to the 2019 showcase. Thus far, the iSpot estimates bear that out, with overall in-game ad spend up about 18% through Monday.
Sportico will be publishing one short business highlight every weekday (and on some weekend days) during the three-week NCAA tournament.
March 20: Men’s vs. Women’s NCAA Tournament Money
March 21: Indexing the NCAA’s Corporate Sponsors
March 23: As Top Seeds Lose, Sportsbooks Win
March 24: #NotNCAAProperty Reaches Millions Online