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Volume 23 No. 13
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NCAA Tournament presence pays off big for sponsors

You could call it the sponsorship version of the double-double.

In our annual NCAA Sponsor Breakthrough survey conducted for SBJ by Turnkey Intelligence, the official sponsor in seven of the 10 categories measured boasted a double-digit lead over its nearest rival. Leading the way was Capital One (a partner since 2010), which was correctly identified in the study by 49% of the fans as being the NCAA’s official bank. That marked an 8 percentage-point leap over our 2018 study and gave the bank a 43-point lead over its closest competitor, Bank of America.

Recognition compared to 2018

+8% points: Reese’s — Maybe the free peanut butter cups at NCAA tournaments boosted awareness?

+8% points: Capital One — The bank’s highest level in the seven years that we’ve tracked the category.

-4% points: Infiniti — The luxury carmaker saw a drop for the second year in a row.

-3% points: Buick — Decline comes despite 7% increase in ad spending during postseason.

Similarly, Buffalo Wild Wings, a partner since 2013, was recognized by 46% of respondents. That not only marked a 3-point improvement over last year, but was more than double the combined total of the other six restaurants presented to fans as an option.

Other notable findings from the data:

It took fans 15 weeks or less to recognize Geico’s official status, as the Berkshire Hathaway company earned 23% of the insurance category’s mindshare despite being an NCAA partner only since January.

Also enjoying a strong rookie tournament was BodyArmor (6% recognition). The brand’s one commercial, which aired 28 times and only during first-round telecasts, featured NBA All-Stars Donovan Mitchell using a rotary phone and James Harden on a typewriter, implying that Gatorade is a thing of the past.

Ad effectiveness

Turnkey draws from its database of more than 400 ads to analyze the impact of creative spots running on NCAA and other sports programming.

Grade: 8 (Good)

A driver is excited to be making a huge food delivery to what he thinks is a basketball party, only to arrive at a birthday party. The Anomaly-created spot was a hit with fans, scoring extremely well in terms of likability and viewer engagement, and above average in branding.


Grade: 5 (Fair)

The basketball-themed spot — part of AT&T’s “Just OK Is Not OK” series — netted a very low likability score and poor viewer engagement, according to Turnkey. However, the ad aired more than 100 times during the college basketball postseason and fan recognition of AT&T’s branding was on par with other March Madness ads.