Duke vs. Wisconsin wasn’t the only battle taking place Monday night.
Automakers were on offense, too, lobbing commercials at consumers to boost purchase intent and raise awareness.
Out of all of the brands running ads, a familiar battle took center stage.
The national title game was basically an extension of the hotly contested U.S. luxury race involving Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Lexus and the rising Audi brand.
Mercedes experienced the largest lift in purchase likelihood from its advertising during the game, but its competitors saw gains as well, according to Extreme Reach, a company that measures the effectiveness of ad campaigns.
Mercedes had a 78.6 percent rise in purchase likelihood among viewers, but it was followed closely by (guess who?) BMW, which had a 77.7 percent lift. Audi saw a 69.3 percent gain, while the Lexus brand lift was 68.3 percent to finish fourth among auto brands.
The NCAA tournament’s purchase intent numbers, including the Final Four, Elite 8 and Sweet 16 rounds, dwarfed those of the Super Bowl. Mercedes-Benz, for comparison, registered a 4.1 percent purchase intent boost from its ad that aired during the Super Bowl.
The reason for the difference underscores a key perk of tournament advertising.
“What really leads to such a huge brand lift number versus something like the Super Bowl is the repeated exposures over and over again,” said Ryan Pamplin, vice president of digital for Extreme Reach. “The reason that it skews toward luxury brands doing better than non-luxury car brands is due to the fact that the audience is composed of a much higher percentage of more affluent males.”
In the Extreme Reach study, 1,003,772 people in the U.S. described how likely they were to purchase a product or service by picking a single answer from five choices ranging from “very likely” to “very unlikely,” the company said.
Surveys were taken by a control group, people who hadn’t been exposed to the games during the tournament, and an exposed group immediately after watching specific games on TV, online, or both.
Extreme Reach said the study was conducted across Internet-connected devices.
The NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Tournament -- and its bargain-like ad prices compared with those of the Super Bowl -- is a prime opportunity for companies to go on the offensive. A 30-second ad during Monday’s championship game carried a price tag of $1.55 million, which isn’t nearly as daunting as the $4.5 million rate for the Super Bowl.
Advertisers of all stripes, more than half of which ran spots throughout the tournament, had a hefty audience to work with Monday night.
The championship game’s viewership peaked at 33.4 million from 11 p.m. to 11:15 p.m. ET, the NCAA reported.
The game had an average viewership of 28.3 million overall, up 33 percent from 2014. The tournament as a whole had an average viewership of 11.3 million, an 8 percent increase from 2014.
Monday night’s auto ads were particularly effective for consumers with annual incomes of $150,000 or more. The likelihood to purchase among this affluent audience rose 123 percent.
“It’s hard to stand out in the Super Bowl because there are so many brands all screaming their message to consumers at the same time and they only get one shot,” Pamplin said. “And the ads are so expensive that most brands only have one, or maybe two [commercials].”