2022 March Madness: Week 1 Sponsorship Analysis

The first of a two-part analysis from Hive and Elevate Sports Ventures unveils which brands were early winners from their televised March Madness exposure

At a glance

  • Through the first week of games, 2022 March Madness generated more than $165M in equivalent media value for brands exposed within telecasts of the Men’s and Women’s tournaments (excluding commercials)
  • The NCAA tournament offers fewer opportunities for sponsorship placements, resulting in roughly 15% less total screen time for brands per game compared to this year’s conference tournaments; exposure has been deliberately concentrated within official NCAA sponsors, as well as the apparel brands outfitting participating teams
  • Across the Men’s and Women’s tournament, Spalding earned the most time on screen during the first week of games due to prominent placement on the basket stanchion arms
  • Among uniform sponsors, Nike outfitted more than half of all teams across the Men’s and Women’s tournament (69 of 134 participating teams)
  • Nike’s Air Jordan will likely over-perform on uniform exposure in the Men’s tournament going forward, as the brand outfits 9% of all Men’s tournament teams but represents 25% of the Sweet Sixteen contenders
  • 40 national advertisers placed ads across both the Men’s and Women’s tournaments through Sunday, March 20th; 22 additional brands exclusively aired commercials during the Men’s tournament and 12 additional brands exclusively aired commercials during the Women’s tournament

While there are still two weeks left of March Madness, 104 of the 134 games in the 2022 NCAA Division I Men’s and Women’s Basketball Tournaments are now in the books. As one of the most watched sporting events on the television calendar, March Madness has already generated tremendous exposure for the brands associated with it.

This is the first of a two-part analysis of March Madness 2022, completed in collaboration between Hive and Elevate Sports Ventures. For a full analysis of brand exposure within and around the Men’s and Women’s tournaments to be released on Tuesday, April 5th following the Men’s Championship Game, sign up for our media insights newsletter here.

The following insights were generated using Hive’s AI-powered media intelligence platform, Mensio, which provides always-on measurement of traditional advertising and in-content brand exposure for more than 7,000 brands across 24/7 programming from national TV channels and regional sports networks. Mensio is trusted by a diverse set of leading brands, rights holders, and agencies to measure the value of and share of voice from sponsorship activations, product placement, and other in-content exposures as well as traditional advertising.

Official NCAA partners lead in-game brand exposure

March Madness is an exclusive environment for brands, featuring fewer opportunities for in-game brand exposure compared to other sporting events. During the first week of games (through Sunday, March 20th, excluding the final 8 games of the Women’s Second Round played on Monday, March 21st which concluded after the press deadline), March Madness generated an average of 82 minutes of televised in-game brand exposure per game, excluding conference, team, and network brands. That average was roughly 15% less than the average total minutes of brand exposure across all nationally-televised Men’s and Women’s conference tournaments this year (96 minutes).

With significant NCAA branding and deliberate assets for sponsorships, in-game brand exposure was concentrated within different tiers of official NCAA sponsors and uniform sponsors (see Figure 1).

While the media value generated by exposure in Men’s games is significantly higher than that in Women’s games due to relative viewership levels and the resulting commercial spot costs, the average minutes of total brand exposure during games in the Women’s tournament, 89 minutes, was almost 20% greater than that of games in the Men’s tournament. The primary drivers of this difference were the additional sponsorship assets available on the basket stanchion in the Women’s tournament. In addition to Spalding, which was present on the stanchion across both tournaments, State Farm was a mainstay on the stanchion arm in the Women’s tournament along with a collection of other brands which were visible on the base of the stanchion and varied by arena.

In-Game Brand Exposure by Brand Category - First Four, First Round, Second Round
Figure 1

The most prominent asset in both tournaments to date was the front of the basket stanchion arm, which featured Spalding’s logo in the Men’s tournament and State Farm’s in the Women’s tournament. Spalding, which was also visible on the stanchion in the Women’s tournament, was the most exposed brand during the first week of games, accumulating more than 25 hours of screen time within games through Sunday, March 20th. Other highly exposed brands included the Official NCAA Corporate Champions – AT&T, Capital One, and Coca-Cola – and uniform sponsors including Nike, Under Armour, and Adidas (see Figure 2).

Top Sponsors' time on screen during Men's and Women's games through March 20
Figure 2

Nike leads exposure among apparel brands to date; Air Jordan expected to outperform going forward

While most NCAA sponsors enjoy exclusivity within their category during the tournament, apparel brands are unique in that uniform sponsorships are contracted with teams – resulting in a competition for exposure among Nike, Under Armour, Adidas, and Nike’s Air Jordan brand.

Entering the tournament, 35 of the 68 Men’s teams (51%) wore Nike uniforms, 14 (21%) wore Under Armour, 13 (19%) wore Adidas, and 6 (9%) wore Air Jordan. 34 of the 68 Women’s teams (50%) wore Nike uniforms, 14 (21%) wore Under Armour, 15 (22%) wore Adidas, and 5 (7%) wore Air Jordan.

Adidas’ opportunities for exposure in the Men’s Tournament were quickly lessened with four of its teams losing in the First Four matchups, and five of the remaining nine losing in the First Round. Under Armour lost nine of its 14 sponsored teams in the Men’s First Round. Teams outfitted by Nike vaulted to almost 60% of active teams in the Second Round to earn the largest share of voice among apparel brands. Nike’s Air Jordan brand, however, is poised to show the greatest outperformance going forward. While Air Jordan outfitted only six of the 68 teams in the Men’s tournament, the brand’s four remaining teams make up 25% of the Men’s Sweet Sixteen field (see Figure 3).

Count of men's teams sponsored by Nike, Under Armour, Adidas, and Air Jordan by round
Figure 3

Different brands advertise in Men’s and Women’s tournaments

While the brands that appeared within the games themselves across the Men’s and Women’s tournaments were generally consistent, there was more variance in the brands which chose to buy traditional commercials alongside the respective tournaments. 40 brands aired national commercials within both Men’s and Women’s games (see Figure 4; brands with 25 or more nationally televised commercials across tournaments through Sunday, March 20th). These included the Official NCAA Corporate Champions and Partners, as well as brands such as GEICO, Gatorade, State Farm, and Progressive, which aired the most commercials during the first week of the tournaments.

22 brands had national airings unique to the Men’s tournament, including brands such as Lowe’s, GMC (although parent company General Motors advertised across tournaments with other brands), Corona, and Samsung.

12 brands had national airings unique to the Women’s tournament, including brands such as McDonald’s, Dodge, Skittles, USAA, and Walmart.

The differences in advertiser mix likely reflect varied consumer targeting strategies, as well as brands’ broader relationships with the respective broadcasters (WarnerMedia and CBS for the Men’s tournament; Disney for the Women’s tournament).

Brands that advertised exclusively in the Men's Tournament, exclusively in the Women's Tournament, and in both
Figure 4

The remaining two weeks of both tournaments will not only determine the National Champions, but also the final score for all of the brands who have become a part of the tournament. A second part of this analysis of brand exposure within and around the Men’s and Women’s tournaments will be released on Tuesday, April 5th following the Men’s Championship Game; sign up for our media insights newsletter here to be alerted when the piece is published.

About Hive

Hive is the leading provider of cloud-based AI solutions that unlock an increased understanding of video, image, audio, and text content. The company empowers developers with a portfolio of best-in-class, pre-trained AI models, serving billions of customer API requests every month. Hive also offers turnkey software powered by proprietary AI models and datasets, enabling industry-leading applications for critical business needs. Collectively, Hive’s solutions are transforming legacy approaches to content moderation, brand protection, sponsorship measurement, context-based ad targeting, and more. For more information, visit or follow on LinkedIn.

About Elevate Sports Ventures

Elevate Sports Ventures is a best-in-class sports and entertainment consulting firm, providing proven, innovative solutions to organizations across the global sports and entertainment landscape. Elevate taps into the extensive resources, relationships, and expertise of its partners to innovate and execute comprehensive strategies and solutions in Venue Renovations, Sales and Marketing, Stadium Licenses, Premium Ticketing, Corporate Hospitality, Customer Research, Strategy and Analytics, Sales Training, and more. Formed in partnership between the San Francisco 49ers and Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment (HBSE) in 2018, Elevate welcomed Oak View Group (OVG), Ticketmaster and Live Nation as partners in June, 2018. For more information, visit: or follow @ElevateSV on Twitter or LinkedIn.

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