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March Madness Radio Audience Shown To Be More Engaged Than TV’s.

With March Madness less than three weeks away, two studies reveal new insights into the fanatical audience for the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. Fans that watch the games on TV are more casual sports fans. Those that tune in for the radio play-by-play are more passionate and engaged.

The findings come from the most recently released (2022) data from Nielsen Scarborough USA+ and MRI Simmons USA as analyzed by Westwood One in its latest blog post. The radio network is the audio rights holder for March Madness play-by-play. Across the NCAA season, 33 million different Americans catch the Westwood one NCAA broadcasts.

The MRI Simmons study uncovered significantly different engagement and purchase profiles between the tournament audiences on AM/FM radio versus TV. On each of five measures, MRI Simmons data shows the AM/FM radio NCAA play-by-play audience is more engaged with and passionate about sports than those who watch sports on TV. Compared to the TV audience, the AM/FM radio audience is:

  • 69% more likely to have attended any sports events

  • 29% more likely to use a sports app in the last 30 days

  • 54% more likely to have family/friends ask/trust their advice on sports

  • 71% more likely to be considered a sports category influential consumer

And according to Nielsen Scarborough, NCAA March Madness AM/FM radio listeners are far more likely to be sports bettors.

The tournament audience is an attractive segment for advertisers, no matter which platform they experience it on. “Whether they are watching March Madness on TV, their smartphone or catching the play-by-play on radio, they’re younger, more upscale, more likely to attend college, more likely to be full time employed and have kids in the household,” says Cumulus Media/Westwood One Chief Insights Officer Pierre Bouvard.

According to Westwood One, more than a third (36%) of March Madness audiences listen to the games on the radio via Westwood One’s coverage – especially when a lot of these games occurred during the day and people don't have a TV screen available. “Among folks that are catching the games away from home, six out of 10 are catching the radio play by pay broadcasts,” says Bouvard.

Radio is among the 3.4 different platforms the average NCAA Men's basketball fan aged 18+ is consuming the games on.

Based on the research, no demo is more passionate about NCAA hoops than men 18-34, which are consuming the tournament across 5.1 platforms. Radio is a key platform for this segment with six in ten saying they tune into the national Westwood One play-by-play coverage.

Incremental Reach For Advertisers

According to a MARU/Matchbox analysis, radio provides 19% incremental reach for advertisers above and beyond those who are just using video for the games. It also amplifies frequency as one-third are using both the video and audio to catch up with those games.

A Sequent Partners analysis of Nielsen Audio data found the radio audience is younger, more likely to be employed, more likely to have kids, live in bigger households, and have a higher median income. Says Bouvard, “The audio platform is really the creme de la creme of NCAA March Madness fans.”

In another study, MRI Simmons scoped out different measures of sports passion and engagement, from attending sports events, to using a sports app to participating in a fantasy sports league. Regardless of the passion measure, the study found the audio audience for NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament to be much more engaged.

“They are finding that radio broadcast because they're truly into the sports event,” Bouvard explains. “And whether it's attending games or being super interested in college basketball, or doing fantasy sports or sports betting, the audio audiences are just more passionate. And what that means for you as an advertiser is that your ad is running in audio content where people are literally leaning in, so it elevates the impact of the ad for your brand, your store.”

Other findings from the various NCAA studies:

  • NCAA Basketball AM/FM radio listeners are a desirable group of consumers: They are more likely to work full time and are younger than the average American.

  • The NCAA March Madness AM/FM radio audience is highly engaged with sports: MRI Simmons finds NCAA March Madness AM/FM radio listeners attend many sporting events, seek out sports information on their phones, and are likely to play fantasy sports. The high levels of engagement translate into greater advertising effectiveness.

  • NCAA March Madness AM/FM radio listeners are likely to make purchases across key consumer categories: AM/FM radio delivers consumers who are likely to buy a new or used vehicle, switch insurance providers, move residence, and refinance their mortgage.

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