The NCAA runs a unique sponsorship model, offering brands broad access to all 90 NCAA championships as part of official partnerships through CBS and Turner Sports. However, March Madness reigns supreme as the biggest opportunity for lucrative sponsorship, giving companies buying into the NCAA access to what is by far the largest audience of any NCAA event.
Last year Elevate Sports published a report estimating brands received over $410 million in media exposure value from telecasts of the men’s and women’s March Madness tournaments, which doesn’t even factor in added exposure in social media clips and highlights. The sheer length of March Madness, three weeks with more than 120 games between the two tournaments, gives these brands extended exposure to fan bases across the country.
Along with in-game signage and traditional TV advertising, Capital One is the presenting sponsor for the NCAA’s official bracket challenges for both tournaments. They’re also sponsoring March Madness Fan Fest and the March Madness Music Festival the weekend of the men’s Final Four in Houston.
Another big partner, AT&T is sponsoring a Block Party the Friday of the Final Four weekend as part of the same March Madness Music Festival. On the women’s side they’re presenting two in-person events at the Final Four, the Super Saturday Concert and Beyond the Baseline.
The third and final major partner is Coca-Cola, who again benefit from advertising, this year promoting Coca-Cola Zero Sugar with a new “Best Coke Ever?” ad complete with social #TakeATaste hashtag. Coca-Cola’s partnership also includes Powerade as the official sports drink of the NCAA. With coolers and water bottles, sports drinks notoriously earn tons of exposure from shots of the sideline and huddles.
Other NCAA partners will also feature heavily throughout the two tournaments.
While NCAA partners are involved in both tournaments, Buick has shown particular commitment to changing the inequity in men’s and women’s sports coverage, launching a See Her Greatness campaign last year as part of their NCAA partnership. This year, they’re sponsoring a youth dribble competition for the men’s Final Four and two women’s Final Four events in Dallas, the Final Four Bounce and Party in the Plaza.
Aflac has also committed more resources to the women’s tournament, announcing they plan on running 30 spots during the women’s tournament vs. 10 for men’s game broadcasts. They also cast reigning champion Coach Dawn Staley alongside Duke icon Coach K in this year’s new ad.
Nissan’s bringing back their “Road 2” campaign, complete with traditional TV advertising, digital activations with Bleacher Report, a bracket challenge with CBS Sports and a TikTok campaign highlighting the app’s new TikTok Now feature.
The beloved candy brand is sponsoring the men’s Final Four Friday, a chance for fans to watch Final Four teams’ open practices and the NABC All-Star Game.
Ahead of the tournament, Great Clips is running their #HatsOffSweepstakes on social media to give fans a chance to win a trip and tickets for the men’s and women’s Final Four.
This #MarchMadness we're asking fans to go Hats Off with us for a chance to win a trip to the Men's or Women's #FinalFour! 🏀 Post a photo or video of your hat flip with #HatsOffSweepstakes to enter! Subj2Rules: https://t.co/nEUfaf83vF pic.twitter.com/v8pfK3Iwr7— Great Clips (@GreatClips) March 7, 2023
Buffalo Wild Wings
As the Official Sports Bar of March Madness, Buffalo Wild Wings is launching two new sauces for the tournaments: Buffalo Ranch and Honey Garlic. They’re also giving fans the chance to stay at the “BnB-Dubs” for the first weekend of the men’s tournament.
The official hamburger of March Madness have a new spot with Reggie Miller, a “Square’s The Beef” campaign playing off of the fast-food brands iconic tagline.
Apparel and gear
Besides brands running advertisements and activations, apparel and equipment partners also benefit from the massive exposure a tournament like March Madness provides.
Wilson Sporting Goods
The NCAA’s exclusive partnership with Wilson as the basketball for both tournaments means tons of logo exposure via telecasts and social media.
NO. 4 UCLA GETS REVENGE 😤— NCAA March Madness (@MarchMadnessMBB) March 5, 2023
The Bruins win their 25th straight home game and avenge their loss to No. 8 Arizona 👀 pic.twitter.com/a68O6PD4Kb
Apparel: Nike, Jordan, Under Armour & Adidas
Beyond NCAA partners, the biggest winners are the apparel companies who struck deals with the various schools who make the tournaments. Adidas, Nike, Under Armour and Jordan are well-represented brands throughout the tournaments, appearing on jerseys and gear of participating teams.
.@m_sasser0 & @UHouston steady at #️⃣1️⃣ in today's @AP_Top25 poll— Houston Men's Hoops 🏀 🐾 (@UHCougarMBK) March 6, 2023
Seventh week at #️⃣1️⃣ in 2022-23#ForTheCity x #GoCoogs pic.twitter.com/6wfwoNKPBv