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Volume 21 No. 43
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College fans taking note of NCAA sponsors

Fans of college sports are more aware of the companies that are official NCAA sponsors than they were a year ago, according to the fourth annual sponsor loyalty survey conducted for SportsBusiness Journal/Daily by Turnkey Sports & Entertainment.

All 12 official NCAA partners across the 11 categories tracked in the study saw a year-over-year increase in the percentage of fans who were aware of each brand’s NCAA partnership. Ten of those brands enjoyed their best awareness levels ever in the survey’s history.

Ad efforts for Coca-Cola include campaigns pegged to March Madness.
“That rise shows the sheer power of official NCAA sponsorship, and a lot of that is related to the increase of programming around some of the biggest college sporting events,” said Larry Mann, executive vice president of media at Chicago-based rEvolution, which represents NCAA sponsor Northwestern Mutual. “Massive media deals have given brands multiple platforms and shows to completely extend their sponsorship, with hours of live programing. The brands are rolling out synced, creative messaging in campaigns utilizing NCAA marks.”

More than 41 percent of all fans surveyed knew that Coca-Cola is the NCAA’s official soda, making it the NCAA’s most recognized partner for a second straight year. Capital One held that distinction in the survey’s first two years.
Coca-Cola and Capital One, along with AT&T, are NCAA corporate champions, the group’s highest level of sponsorship. That means they spend roughly twice as much as companies designated as corporate partners and receive many more assets to activate, such as the weekend concert series at the Final Four.

Capital One ads feature Charles Barkley, Spike Lee and Samuel L. Jackson.
“That tells me the brands [and property] are doing a good job of keeping the continuity going throughout the year, not just during the [basketball] tournament,” said Tyson Webber, president of GMR Marketing, which has worked with NCAA partners Lowe’s and Hershey.

Coca-Cola in 2013 renewed its NCAA sponsorship, which began in 2002, with an 11-year deal. Nearly half (46 percent) of the avid fans polled were aware of the partnership, giving Coke three consecutive years of increased awareness level among that fan segment.

The increases in awareness coincide with Coke’s activation in 2015 and 2016, years that featured the “drinkable” ad campaign for the Coke Zero brand. With the help of music app Shazam, users pour a virtual Coke Zero into a virtual glass on their smartphones. March Madness-related campaigns have been featured as well.

The timing also aligns with the arrival of Ivan Pollard, Coke’s senior vice president of global connections, investment and assets. Beginning with the 2015 men’s basketball tournament, Pollard has been the senior executive determining how Coke will spend its sports marketing dollars.

Enterprise Rent-A-Car also saw its highest awareness level (34.8 percent among all fans) and a third straight year of increased awareness among avid fans. Those improvements coincide with the company’s ad campaign that highlights Enterprise employees who used to be college athletes.

The AT&T Block Party was part of Final Four festivities.
Photo by: GETTY IMAGES
Among the additional results and observations from the survey:

AT&T and LG were the biggest movers, adding approximately 10 percentage points to their 2015 awareness levels. AT&T netted a brand-high 39 percent recognition rate, while 24 percent of fans recognized LG’s official status, also a brand best.

Twenty-four percent of avid fans correctly tabbed Northwestern Mutual as the official brand in the financial services category, doubling its rate from each of the past two years.

Buick has a wide lead in the auto category (22 percent among all respondents) and has seen a 12 percentage-point improvement among avid fans since the inaugural survey in 2013, the largest increase of the more than 70 brands tracked each year.

Staff writer Michael Smith contributed to this report.

Methodology

For this project, Turnkey Sports & Entertainment, through its Turnkey Intelligence operation, conducted national consumer research surveys among a sample of more than 400 members of the Toluna online panel who were at least 18 years old.

This year’s data was collected March 24-30, a period leading up to the men’s and women’s Final Fours. The 2014 data was collected during a similar time, while the 2015 data was collected during a period both before and during that year’s Final Fours.

Respondents were screened based on their general avidity levels. Fans categorized as “avid” were those who responded “4” or “5” to the questions “How big a fan are you of NCAA basketball?” and “How big a fan are you of NCAA football?”; then claimed to “Look up NCAA basketball news, scores and standings several times a week or more often”; “Watch/listen/attend at least 20 NCAA basketball games per season”; and “Have a favorite NCAA basketball team.” Fans categorized as “casual” responded “3” to the same initial questions, then claimed to “Look up NCAA basketball news, scores and standings several times a month or more often”; “Watch/listen/attend at least five NCAA basketball games per season”; and “Have a favorite NCAA basketball team.”

When asked to identify official sponsors, respondents selected from a field of companies and brands that was provided to them. The percentage responses listed have been rounded. The margin of error for each survey is +/- 4.9 percentage points.

Turnkey Intelligence performs research work for more than 30 conferences and schools as well as for numerous sponsors that are involved in college sports.

IMPACT ON SAMPLING AND SUPPORT

Are you more or less likely to consider trying a product/service if that product/service is an official NCAA sponsor?

  Avid Casual
  2016 2015 2014 2016 2015 2014
More likely 52.5% 46.0% 48.0% 39.0% 29.2% 38.5%
Unaffected or less likely 47.5% 54.0% 52.0% 61.0% 70.8% 61.5%

Are you more or less likely to consciously support a company by purchasing its products/services if the company is an official NCAA sponsor?

  Avid Casual
  2016 2015 2014 2016 2015 2014
More likely 51.0% 48.5% 49.0% 40.0% 29.7% 37.5%
Unaffected or less likely 49.0% 51.5% 51.0% 60.0% 70.3% 62.5%

Are you more or less likely to recommend a product/service to a friend or family member if that product/service is an official sponsor of the NCAA?

  Avid Casual
  2016 2015 2014 2016 2015 2014
More likely 51.0% 40.0% 45.5% 41.5% 25.7% 32.0%
Unaffected or less likely 49.0% 60.0% 54.5% 58.5% 74.3% 68.0%

SPONSORSHIP SIGNIFICANCE AND ASSESSMENT

Subject: How much more likely are fans to consider purchasing/using an NCAA sponsor's product/service if they are aware of the relationship?
To read: 39 percent of the surveyed NCAA fans said they would be more likely to consider using a shipping/delivery company that is the NCAA's official sponsor in that category if they knew which company had that designation. That response rate increased to 58 percent when considering only those fans who correctly knew that UPS holds those rights for the NCAA.

CATEGORY (NCAA SPONSOR) AMONG ALL NCAA FANS AMONG NCAA FANS WHO CORRECTLY IDENTIFIED THE SPONSOR DIFFERENCE
Shipping services (UPS) 39% 58% +19 pct. points
Insurance (Allstate) 39% 57% +18 pct. points
Consumer electronics (LG) 41% 66% +15 pct. points
Candy (Reese's) 45% 60% +15 pct. points
Soft drink (Coca-Cola) 45% 58% +13 pct. points
Rental car (Enterprise) 44% 57% +13 pct. points
Wireless service (AT&T) 38% 50% +12 pct. points
Life insurance/financial advisory services (Northwestern Mutual) 36% 48% +12 pct. points
Casual dining (Buffalo Wild Wings) 43% 52% +9 pct. points
Automobile (Buick*) 40% 48% +8 pct. points
Credit card (Capital One) 40% 47% +7 pct. points

Subject: What brands do fans think should be NCAA sponsors?
To read: 69 percent of the surveyed NCAA fans said they think Coca-Cola should be an NCAA sponsor compared to 38 percent who think Pepsi should have such a partnership. Those numbers became 80 percent and 29 percent, respectively, when considering only those fans who correctly knew that Coca-Cola is the NCAA's official soft drink.

  AMONG ALL NCAA FANS AMONG NCAA FANS WHO CORRECTLY IDENTIFIED THE SPONSOR
NCAA SPONSOR/COMPETITOR^ RESPONSE RATES DIFFERENCE RESPONSE RATES DIFFERENCE
Buffalo Wild Wings / Fox & Hound 31% / 3% +28 pct. points 55% / 1% +54 pct. points
Coca-Cola / Pepsi 69% / 38% +31 pct. points 80% / 29% +51 pct. points
Allstate / Nationwide 36% / 22% +14 pct. points 55% / 21% +34 pct. points
AT&T / Verizon 50% / 42% +8 pct. points 67% / 36% +31 pct. points
Capital One / Chase 39% / 26% +13 pct. points 56% / 25% +31 pct. points
Enterprise / Hertz 29% / 19% +10 pct. points 46% / 15% +31 pct. points
UPS / FedEx 46% / 40% +6 pct. points 63% / 33% +30 pct. points
Reese's / Snickers 34% / 33% +1 pct. point 58% / 32% +26 pct. points
Northwestern Mutual / New York Life 15% / 15% None 38% / 12% +26 pct. points
Buick* / Chrysler 17% / 14% +3 pct. points 33% / 11% +22 pct. points
LG / Samsung 29% / 45% -16 pct. points 45% / 41% +4 pct. points

* Both Buick and Infiniti are NCAA sponsors in the automobile category, but only Buick was featured in this portion of the survey.
^ Respondents could select both the official sponsor and the competitor if they chose to do so. The listed companies were selected by Turnkey for consideration in the survey file.


Which of the following is an official sponsor of the NCAA?

  Avid Casual
Soft Drink
  2016 2015 2014 2016 2015 2014
Coca-Cola* 46.0% 45.0% 41.5% 36.5% 29.2% 33.0%
Pepsi 10.5% 10.0% 12.0% 10.5% 9.9% 8.5%
Dr Pepper 9.5% 5.5% 6.5% 3.5% 4.0% 6.0%
I'm not sure 26.0% 32.0% 31.0% 44.0% 49.5% 47.0%
NCAA sponsor: Coca-Cola (since 2002)
  Avid Casual
Credit card
  2016 2015 2014 2016 2015 2014
Capital One* 44.5% 40.5% 41.0% 33.0% 30.7% 34.5%
Bank of America 9.0% 8.5% 6.5% 10.5% 9.4% 6.0%
Chase 4.0% 11.0% 7.0% 4.0% 4.0% 6.0%
Citi 4.5% 2.0% 3.0% 1.5% 2.0% 3.5%
I'm not sure 26.5% 31.5% 37.5% 46.0% 49.5% 46.5%
NCAA sponsor: Capital One (since 2010)
  Avid Casual
Wireless Service
  2016 2015 2014 2016 2015 2014
AT&T* 41.0% 32.5% 33.0% 36.5% 24.3% 32.0%
Verizon 11.0% 13.5% 14.0% 9.0% 9.9% 10.0%
T-Mobile 9.5% 8.0% 4.0% 6.0% 2.5% 4.0%
Sprint 5.5% 5.0% 9.0% 2.0% 4.5% 4.5%
I'm not sure 29.5% 35.0% 35.5% 44.0% 55.4% 45.5%
NCAA sponsor: AT&T (since 2007)^
  Avid Casual
Casual Dining
  2016 2015 2014 2016 2015 2014
Buffalo Wild Wings* 41.0% 36.5% 36.0% 30.5% 24.3% 25.5%
Applebee's 10.0% 14.0% 11.0% 3.5% 11.4% 10.5%
Chili's 2.0% 4.0% 5.0% 5.0% 2.0% 4.5%
I'm not sure 35.0% 36.5% 40.5% 51.5% 57.9% 53.0%
NCAA sponsor: Buffalo Wild Wings (since 2013)
  Avid Casual
Rental Car
  2016 2015 2014 2016 2015 2014
Enterprise* 41.5% 37.0% 34.0% 28.0% 24.3% 34.5%
National 10.5% 5.0% 3.0% 3.5% 2.5% 2.0%
Hertz 4.5% 11.0% 7.0% 5.5% 6.9% 7.5%
Budget 2.0% 2.5% 5.0% 2.5% 1.5% 2.5%
I'm not sure 33.5% 38.5% 44.0% 55.0% 60.9% 50.0%
NCAA sponsor: Enterprise Rent-A-Car (since 2005)
  Avid Casual
Candy
  2016 2015 2014 2016 2015 2014
Reese's* 27.5% 29.5% 26.5% 26.0% 17.3% 27.5%
Snickers 16.5% 16.0% 17.0% 10.0% 14.4% 13.0%
Kit Kat 7.0% 5.0% 3.0% 6.5% 2.0% 2.5%
I'm not sure 40.0% 40.5% 42.5% 51.5% 59.4% 53.0%
NCAA sponsor: The Hershey Co./Reese's (since 2009).
  Avid Casual
Shipping Services
  2016 2015 2014 2016 2015 2014
UPS* 24.5% 27.0% 33.5% 27.0% 16.8% 23.0%
FedEx 27.0% 27.0% 21.5% 18.0% 17.3% 18.5%
U.S. Postal Service 9.5% 6.0% 5.0% 5.5% 4.0% 5.5%
I'm not sure 37.0% 38.5% 38.5% 49.0% 60.4% 52.0%
NCAA sponsor: UPS (since 2010)
  Avid Casual
Insurance
  2016 2015 2014 2016 2015 2014
Allstate* 28.0% 25.5% 25.0% 23.5% 17.8% 25.5%
Geico 10.5% 9.0% 13.5% 8.0% 5.9% 8.0%
State Farm 11.0% 11.5% 7.5% 5.0% 2.0% 5.5%
I'm not sure 28.5% 35.0% 36.5% 50.5% 60.4% 48.5%
NCAA sponsor: Allstate (since 2012)
  Avid Casual
Consumer Electronics
  2016 2015 2014 2016 2015 2014
LG* 24.0% 13.5% 19.0% 24.0% 15.3% 16.0%
Samsung 21.5% 20.0% 15.0% 11.5% 11.4% 11.5%
Sony 9.5% 7.5% 7.5% 4.5% 9.4% 4.0%
I'm not sure 38.5% 50.5% 48.0% 54.0% 60.4% 62.0%
NCAA sponsor: LG (since 2009)
  Avid Casual
Life Insurance/Financial advisory services
  2016 2015 2014 2016 2015 2014
Northwestern Mutual* 24.0% 11.5% 12.0% 17.0% 11.9% 14.5%
Prudential 10.0% 13.0% 15.0% 4.0% 6.9% 5.0%
The Hartford 6.5% 3.5% 7.0% 3.5% 1.5% 6.0%
I'm not sure 39.5% 52.0% 52.0% 63.0% 72.3% 65.0%
NCAA sponsor: Northwestern Mutual (since 2012)
  Avid Casual
Automobile
  2016 2015 2014 2016 2015 2014
Buick* 26.5% 21.5% 20.5% 18.0% 14.4% 19.5%
Chevrolet 22.0% 18.5% 18.0% 7.5% 11.9% 12.0%
Toyota 17.0% 18.0% 17.5% 8.0% 7.9% 11.5%
Ford 13.0% 20.5% 15.0% 9.0% 11.4% 13.5%
Infiniti* 10.5% 7.0% 9.5% 10.5% 7.9% 11.0%
Nissan 11.0% NA NA 10.0% NA NA
Hyundai 12.5% NA NA 6.0% NA NA
I'm not sure 31.5% 39.0% 42.5% 53.0% 60.4% 50.0%
NCAA sponsors: General Motors/Buick and Infiniti (both since 2011)

* Official NCAA sponsor
^ While AT&T's sponsorship with the NCAA dates to 2007, a relationship for the company extends through corporate mergers and acquisitions to 2001, when Cingular was an NCAA sponsor.
NA: Not available; the company was not asked about in the survey in this year.