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Sweetening the Social Pot

Men’s, Women’s NCAA Tournament Teams Generate $7.07M in Post Value on Opening Weekend

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Social Media
March 23, 2023
March 24, 2023
 min read

Annually, the men’s and women’s NCAA basketball tournaments bring together the nation’s top teams for a three-week sprint toward a national championship. It is big business for the sport’s governing body, bringing in millions of dollars worth of revenue every March. However, the NCAA enjoys sponsorship control through exclusive national TV deals and neutral-site atmospheres. Therefore, teams and their partners must capitalize on March Madness via social media. College basketball’s chaos, excitement, pageantry, and range of emotion elicit millions of engagements during March Madness, and teams’ best opportunities to reap the benefits are during the exhilarating opening rounds. In a mere week, fields of 68 men’s and women’s basketball teams are reduced to sixteen per tournament. This year, the remaining national championship hopefuls include both No. 1 overall seeds – the Alabama Crimson Tide men and South Carolina Gamecocks women – along with a collection of high seeds and Cinderellas alike. We used MVP’s social platform to examine how each of the 136 NCAA tournament teams fared throughout the opening week of March Madness. Our analysis included men’s team accounts from March 14-20 and women’s team accounts from March 15-21, encompassing the opening night of First Four games and a full day following the second round’s conclusion for each. Ultimately, we found the group collectively generated $7.07M worth of total post value during the overlapping periods, with SEC teams and tournament favorites among the leading earners through two rounds of play.

Razorbacks, SEC Enjoy Social Victories

During a weekend full of stunning upsets, the lasting image of the first two rounds was Arkansas Head Coach Eric Musselman stripping off his shirt and standing atop a scorer’s table to lead the Razorback faithful in cheers after defeating defending national champion Kansas. And while those “Woo Pig Sooie” chants were boisterous in Des Moines, where the Hogs played their opening round games, they resounded even louder across the team’s social channels. Representing a league typically known for its football prowess, Arkansas led a collection of SEC teams that outperformed their collective counterparts from the ACC, Big East, and beyond on social media. Arkansas led all teams – men and women – in post value and impressions last week. Overall, the Razorbacks amassed $409.6K in total post value thanks to 18.5 million impressions and 576.8K engagements. Arkansas was one of three SEC teams to reach the second weekend of the men’s tournament, and all three of them finished in the top five of our Sweet 16 team post value rankings. Nevertheless, the Big Ten’s lone remaining representative, Michigan State – with 892.6K total engagements to lead all teams in the fields of 68 – finished second in post value generation with $396.1K. Rounding out the top five were Tennessee, future SEC entrant Texas, and Alabama. Notably, among tournament teams that failed to advance to the Sweet 16, SEC Blue Blood Kentucky generated $293K worth of post value to rank fourth overall and boasted the fifth-most total engagements – 560.4K.

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Hawkeyes, Huskies Top SEC Trio

Few women’s college basketball players have garnered the attention and acclaim enjoyed by Iowa’s Caitlin Clark this season. She alone is worth the price of admission, and a sellout crowd was on hand at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Sunday to watch her propel her team to its third Sweet 16 in the past four tournaments. Word of the Hawkeyes’ success spread rapidly on social media, as Iowa earned the highest engagement rate – 7.97% – among teams in either tournament last week. As a result, they generated $196.3K in total post value to lead all women’s teams and place ninth overall. Placing second in our women’s post value rankings was UConn, who is attempting to reach its 15th consecutive Final Four. The Huskies generated $171.3K in post value thanks to 504.9K total engagements – most among all women’s teams. Remarkably, Iowa, which finished second with 485.9K engagements, has only 19.7% as many followers as Connecticut. The only other women’s team to surpass $100K in post value was LSU, which reached the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2014. The Tigers finished the week with $106.1K in total post value while also ranking third in both engagements and impressions, with 334.3K and 4.85 million, respectively.

Much like on the men’s side, SEC women’s basketball fan bases demonstrated strong affinities for their teams. Three of the top five post value earners – LSU, Ole Miss, and Tennessee – represent the Southeastern Conference. Conspicuously, tournament favorite South Carolina ranked seventh among women’s Sweet 16 teams. However, the Gamecocks’ $75K worth of post value brought the conference collective’s total to $352.9K, or 31.8% of all post value generated by women’s Sweet 16 teams.

Women’s Teams Utilize Facebook Best

Our analysis demonstrated a strong correlation between winning and social performance during the tournament’s opening week. On the men’s side, 84.5% of total post value came from teams that won their first-round tilt. That number was even higher for the ladies, as first-round winners comprised 89% of the total post value. Similarly, engagement figures for men’s and women’s second-round participants comprised 86.3% and 91.7%, respectively, of the overall totals. As the field halved again, winning teams still maintained large shares, although the discrepancy was wider for the women. The men’s Sweet 16 teams accounted for 45.6% of the opening week’s post value, while women’s teams headed to Greenville and Seattle were responsible for 59.8% of the overall post value. Among the reasons for the gap could include more favorites from power conferences advancing on the women’s side. Only four teams that did not receive a top-four seed reached the women’s Sweet 16, while seven did so in the men’s tournament.

Another unique variance between the men’s and women’s teams’ social performances highlighted platform differences between the two. Facebook proved much more popular among women’s hoops enthusiasts than men’s fans. The parallel data sets had similar post count ratios on the app, with women’s teams’ Facebook content accounting for 24.5% of the total compared to 21.2% for the men’s teams. However, total post value, engagements, and impressions were all at least 10% higher for women’s teams. Their collective post value on Facebook was 38.9% of a $1.1M total, narrowly trailing Twitter’s 39.8% share. Men’s teams received only 28.3% of their $2.37M total on Facebook, with Twitter accounting for 46.3%. Strikingly, both sets of Sweet 16 teams earned the most engagements on Instagram despite it producing the least post value for each. Men’s Sweet 16 teams earned 66.1% of their engagements on IG as the women’s clubs managed 53.2% on the image-sharing platform. Once again, however, Facebook proved to be significant for the ladies, as the source of 29.4% of their engagements compared to only 16% for the men. Impressions proportions closely mirrored post value percentages.

Dancing Toward Texas

Teams still in contention are a mere two victories away from a trip to the Final Four and cementing their legacies in program lore. And with half of the No. 1 seeds in both tournaments already eliminated, few Final Four quartets would be shocking to college basketball fans who recognize the madness that annually unfolds in March. By the weekend’s end, the men’s Final Four in Houston will be set and the women’s semifinalists will be destined for Dallas. Stay connected with MVP for further insights into each tournament as they continue to progress.

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