TicketManager | March: Buying into the Madness

The month of March is synonymous with the NCAA’s yearly men’s and women’s D1 college basketball tournament, and each year the madness grows even larger.  

The 2024 editions of the tournament are off to an incredible start. Bracketologists, fans, broadcast networks and sponsors are already seeing success from this year’s games, and the best is yet to come!  

Both the men’s and women’s editions of the tournament are setting records in viewership and attendance.  

Nearly six million viewers tuned in for the men’s bracket unveiling, that’s up 16% from 2023 and the best total in five years. Even the First Four games have set a record; attracting 6.2 million viewers, the second highest total since the First Four format began in 2011. CBS and Warner Bros. Discovery have averaged nine million viewers per window in the tournament so far, which is the most ever 

Attendance is up as well. The First Four in Dayton saw more than 24,000 fans attend, and first-round games drew nearly 260,000 spectators. Seven of the eight first-round sites saw at least 95% of their ticket inventory sold. The start of the second round saw 131,073 fans attending on Saturday and Sunday, and over 97% of ticket inventory was sold at seven of the eight sites. 

While the men’s numbers are great, the growth of the women’s tournament may be even more impressive. 

The women’s tournament viewership has continued the trend of the last few years, with numbers increasing significantly. The tournament selection show saw 1.94 million viewers tune in, up a whopping 52% over 2023. The NCAA has only released viewership numbers for the women’s First Four so far, but those matchups drew a record 184,000 viewers, a 24% increase year-over-year. It’s safe to assume that viewership for the remaining women’s tournament games will continue the trend of breaking all-time records thanks to the never-before-seen star power of current NCAA women’s basketball players. 

The women’s tournament attendance is setting even more records than their male counterpart. 292,456 fans attended the first and second round games, an increase of nearly 61,000 from 2023. Unsurprisingly, games featuring the Iowa Hawkeyes led all matchups attendance, with 28,764 fans attending the first and second round games at the house that Clark built: Carver Hawkeye Arena. 

Clark has been the driving force behind much of women’s colligate basketball’s recent success. We explored her groundbreaking success in a past TicketManager blog 

Sky-high numbers on both the men’s and women’s sides of the madness have been a very happy sight for advertisers and sponsors. Even before the tournament began, sponsors were itching to get in on one of the year’s best events. Earlier this year, Warner Bros. Discovery and CBS announced that their entire March Madness advertisement inventory had sold out. Brands want to get involved with March Madness because they can reach an audience comparable to other massive sporting events (Super Bowl, World Series, NCAAFB Championship, etc.) for a significantly lower price point.  

Many had speculated that the advent of name, image, and likeness (NIL) deals would limit the NCAA and individual schools’ ability to secure valuable sponsorships, but that has been more than disproven. Brands like Home Depot, Coca-Cola, AT&T, Verizon, and more have shown a willingness to sponsor not only individual players through NIL, but also teams, the NCAA, the tournament, the tournament selection show, and ancillary events surrounding the madness. 

We are just getting into the best parts of the tournament, with the Sweet 16, Elite Eight, and the men’s Final Four in Phoenix and women’s in Cleveland still to come! It is safe to assume that these record-breaking numbers will continue through to the end of this already incredible 2024 March Madness.