How Sports Betting and Sports Marketing Combine for March Madness

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As March comes into focus, so does one of the largest events in the sports calendar with the NCAA March Madness tournament. The tournament is famous for its intense action, jaw-dropping upsets and dramatic buzzer beaters.

The action isn’t only on the hardcourt though, as plenty of users will be flocking to sportsbooks to take a chance on an underdog or stick with the higher seeds. With such an influx of users playing due to this event, we put together this piece to look at the March Madness tournament and how it’s affecting marketing in not only the gambling world, but the sports world as well.

Scope of the Event

NCAA’s March Madness is one of the largest sporting events on the North American calendar and the figures from the AGA should give you an idea of the large scope of betting that’ll take place in March.

The American Gaming Association is estimating that over 50 million Americans will bet on March Madness for a combined amount of over $10 billion dollars.

The event takes place over a few weeks in March, as 68 teams are seeded in four different regions to go head-to-head on the hard court in a single elimination tournament. Only 16 teams make it past the first week, which then leads into the vaunted ‘Final Four’ before the epic final game. When the tournament kicks off, multiple games are going on simultaneously, leading to a variety of exciting games for betters to choose from.

NCAA is very protective over their trademark of March Madness, meaning marketers need to be careful with the kind of marketing content they create. Using basketball or bracket imagery is fine, if you don’t use any of NCAA’s trademark sayings or logos in campaigns without their permission.

How Sportsbooks are Changing the Marketing of March Madness

  • Bracket Busted

Before sportsbooks began commonplace in the US, brackets were the element of March Madness that generated the most excitement with fans. Fans would be sure to fill out the bracket and hope that it won’t be busted on the first day. While it’s still a popular game for users, it’s popularity has been  dropping by 8% last year, while sports betting on the games has exponentially increased.

As the situation evolves, it seems brackets are being marketed to more casual fans through traditional sports marketing, while in-game bets and props being offered to experienced gamblers by sportsbooks. Campaigns around March Madness for sports pages or free-to-play sportsbook used to be the focus in the past.  However, it is changing a lot with sports betting now being regulated. Less ads are focused on the fun of brackets, while more are focused on the engaging elements of betting on these games.

  • Marketing Campaign Differences

In terms of the marketing campaigns themselves, they’re quite different for sportsbooks already and especially when considering them compared to campaigns on pro sports like the NBA. Athletes in the NCAA tournament change yearly, unlike in the NBA where operators can market games featuring mega-stars like LeBron James and Kevin Durant yearly. For March Madness, the focus of the advertising campaigns tends to be on the excitement created by the upset or last-second wins of the tournament and how that can create additional excitement around betting on the product. A prime example of this can be seen with Tipico's ad for last year’s event:<iframe title="YouTube video player" src="" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe>

  • NILs, Marketing College Athletes and How it Works with Sports Betting

NILs are a complex topic in the college sports world at the moment. The concept of NILs refers to a college athlete’s ability to receive financial compensation for their NIL (Name, Image and Likeness) to be used in marketing materials. For the longest time, athletes could not receive payment for their NIL or else they’d face serious punishment.

As these NIL deals have begun to take over the talk in college sports, most states still do not allow NIL deals between athletes and sports betting entities. Colorado is one of the few states that doesn’t have restrictions on their NIL deals and allows students athletes to partner with sports betting brands, giving a glimpse of what can be achieved if regulations change. This can be seen in MaximBet’s state-wide NIL offer to every female NCAA student athlete who will help them promote their brand on social media.

What’s Next for March Madness?

As interest in the NCAA March Madness increases in the sports betting world, this will continue to influence the tournament, with massive companies beginning to get more involved. As the event continues to grow in the iGaming world, marketing strategies adopted in iGaming will begin to impact the strategies used for the tournament. Operators and affiliates will need to remain on top of these differences to continue connecting with users.