March Madness ad haul spirals higher than any sport

The Super Bowl and NFL playoffs are a hoot and the World Series rocks, but no sports championship series takes in more TV ad revenue than the NCAA men’s college basketball championships.

Sorry, NFL icons. Too bad, baseball superstars. March Madness has slam-dunked you.

Total TV ad revenue for the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s men’s basketball tournament surpassed $1 billion for the first time in 2012 — making it larger than any professional post-season sports championship, reports Kantar Media, a media research specialist.

And it will only get bigger this year on the multi-channeled CBS and TBS broadcasts. But the driver isn’t just the numbers — it may also be cultural.

“People want to believe in something,” says Barbara Lippert, advertising and pop culture columnist at “You get to see these kids before they get all corrupt.”

The metrics favor college basketball. There are 68 teams competing for the college basketball championship, playing many more post-season games than baseball’s run to the World Series or pro football’s playoffs and Super Bowl.

“Football may be the national pastime, but college basketball is in the driver’s seat,” says Jon Swallen, chief research officer at Kantar.

No one else has hit that $1 billion post-season plateau. The NFL post-season took in $976 million in TV ad spending last year, Kantar reports. The NBA’s postseason totaled $537 million. Major League Baseball was a distant third at $354 million.

Ad prices for the college basketball championship game will hit a high-water mark this year, too, at about $1.4 million per 30-second slot. (This year’s Super Bowl 30-second slots on CBS cost up to $3.8 million.)

Credit the college crowd.

“More upsets and crazy things happen in college sports,” Lippert says. “That’s why they call it March Madness.”