The NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament is unlike any other sporting event in the world. Every March the 64 best college teams in the country battle it out in a single elimination tournament to declare who is the best team in college basketball.

But why is THIS tournament a ratings bonanza? People can’t seem to get enough of this tournament.

If we look at the ratings for the NFL and NBA, the professional leagues for football and basketball respectively, the Superbowl ratings for 2015 destroyed the ratings for the NBA finals.

2015 Superbowl – 114.5 million viewers
2015 NBA Finals – 19.94 million viewers (av. per game)

Football is very much king in America.

But yet if we look at the college level, the NCAA football championship game had lower ratings than the NCAA basketball championship game.

2015 NCAA Football Championship – 26.182 million viewers
2015 NCAA Basketball Championship – 28.3 million viewers

The NCAA Tournament even outperformed the tournament of their professional counterparts, the NBA Finals.

But why? How come this tournament, where you are watching kids and amateurs (along with a handful of future pros) outshines the spectacle of the NBA Finals, where you can watch the very best basketball players in the world?

How come it outshines the way more popular and culturally ingrained football championship game?

The answer is that the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament has developed one of the best brands in the entire world. It’s such a phenomenal brand idea that people don’t even call the tournament by it’s name, but rather by it’s brand idea…


It’s one of the most powerful brand ideas in the world, and this idea is what makes The NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament one of the premier sporting events in the world.

This idea of “Madness” is a phenomenal brand idea because it allows the tournament to own what makes it unique.

It’s controlled chaos. For an entire month it’s a whirlwind of games on all day and night. It’s a blur of buzzerbeaters, upsets and cinderella stories. It’s live excitement, plain and simple.

March Madness are not just words on paper, but the backbone of everything the tournament does, from scheduling to promotional strategy. Let’s take a look at a couple of ways March Madness permeates through every decision the tournament makes.

64 teams play each other in a single elimination tournament. That alone is a recipe for chaos yet the tournament goes to lengths to create even more chaos. The tournament could space out the games, but they intentionally schedule all the games on the same days at staggered start times so that you are always watching the final 2 minutes of an exciting game.


The tournament doesn’t highlight the players, teams or coaches. The tournament highlights the experience of watching. Take a look at the very first two advertisements I found when searching “March Madness” on youtube.

It’s about the experience. Compare that to the NBA, which is all about the players.
What makes March Madness so great, and so lucrative is that it has created an experience that transcends basketball. This experience is guided by their brand idea.