Exclusive: TNL and Wunderman eSports and March Madness Brand Study


2017 NCAA Champions UNC Tar Heels (Photo: Bob Donnon)

2017 NCAA Champions UNC Tar Heels (Photo: Bob Donnon)

TNL Take: Last year, Wunderman analyzed the March Madness fan during the tournament and what Brands they engaged with and purchased

With the explosion of eSports investment from Pro Sports teams, dozens of colleges providing scholarships and 30+ Brands investing in Q1 2017 alone; what does the eSports fan look like, what does the combined March Madness and eSports fan look like and how can Brands take advantage of this unique marketing opportunity?

The Next Level and Wunderman partnered on the first research study to find out who exactly was this March Madness and eSports audience, the overlap of this audience and how Brands could best benefit from investing in both the NCAA Tournament and eSports content.

The research study combined Wunderman’s audience research data, along with what these audiences were talking about on Social platforms and layered on top of their purchase behavior.

Here’s what we found:


The 2016 study showed that the average March Madness fan is primarily a 35-39 year old male, married with children and an income between $75K-$100K

The current study showed that the combined March Madness and eSports audience was even younger, had a higher annual income, but the most unique data point was that it wasn’t just the expected young males -  but young families as well.     

Young Families had a 201 index and having 3+ children in the Household also over indexed at 172.

Looking at the combined audience’s top 5 Brands buying preferences – Matchbox, Jiffy, Kodak, Dirt Devil and Magic Chef - essentially family based products, supports using both March Madness and eSports combined to reach this audience.



As the average eSports fan is typically a young male between 18-34, not surprisingly, Alcohol greatly over indexes for this category.

The eSports Audience is 3x more likely to purchase Jack Daniels (174 Index) vs. just the March Madness Audience (60 Index).

Budweiser is twice as likely to be bought by the eSports audience (123 Index) than the March Madness audience (63 Index), however by advertising to both audiences at the same time, it would increase Budweiser’s overall purchase intent by 12%.

“The brands that have bought into eSports are amazed not only at the ROI but that it's with the audience that’s just not consuming media in the ‘traditional’ manner.  What was amazing about the research was that when you combine eSports with your March Madness investment, not only do you get the eSports audience, but it actually influences overall purchase intent when combined with the March Madness fan” - Manny Anekal



According to Kantar Media, in 2016 the Auto Industry spent over $250M on March Madness representing the top Brand category with 18% of total Ad spend.

Auto Brands have finally realized the value of the eSports audience and the past year has seen deals with Audi and Subaru and a renewal between Turtle Wax and top team OpTic Gaming. Now car companies can use eSports to leverage their NCAA sponsorship and media investment.

Mini Cooper has double the purchase intent (260 Index) for the eSports audience vs. the March Madness audience alone (119 Index); however by including an eSports buy during the same time, Mini Cooper increases it’s overall purchase intent for the combined audience by 38%.

Buick, which is one of the biggest Auto ad spenders during March Madness, would increase reaching previous Buick buyers by 26% by also including eSports during tournament time.

“eSports is unique in that it offers brands an opportunity to connect with an increasingly hard-to-reach audience. When done right, the paybacks can be enormous but the trick is relevance. This is a community of very savvy gamers and they don’t want any distractions. The brands who succeed are those that truly understand this audience, how to reach them and can prove their commitment to the community.” - Jamie Gutfreund, Global CMO, Wunderman


TL/DR: Leverage eSports to augment your March Madness spend, target your exact audience, increase overall purchase intent, and greater ROI per overall investment compared with TV alone.