Watching for Brand Giants in the Elite Eight

Each year, the second weekend in the Men’s NCAA Basketball Tournament gives us eight teams competing for spots in the Final Four.  One might assume that match-ups between the top college basketball brands will be correlated to the highest TV ratings; however our analysis of Nielsen TV ratings, team match-ups, and brand equity dismisses this conventional wisdom.

We analyze Elite Eight data from 2010 to 2013, and find that metrics at the match-up level such as the combined brand equity of the two teams or the difference in brand equity of the two teams have a negligible correlation with TV ratings (less than 0.1).  Thus, from a brand perspective, the match-up of two Goliaths or the David versus Goliath match-up does not seem to be correlated with viewership. Rather, it seems that on a given Elite Eight Saturday or Sunday, when there are four teams playing, there is a significant positive correlation between the highest brand equity team and TV ratings, and a significant negative correlation between the lowest brand equity team and viewership.

A possible explanation for these findings is that Elite Eight viewers look at the full set of teams playing on a given day, and are drawn-in by strong brands, but put-off by weak brands.  These findings also seem to possibly indicate that given viewership preferences, it is really difficult for a low brand equity college to improve its brand.


3 thoughts to “Watching for Brand Giants in the Elite Eight”

  1. Does the time slots of the games have anything to do with this? It seems like teams with greater followings (and greater brand equity) would be given a time slot that should result in more viewership. Do you have an EV for viewership/TV rating for each of the 4 times when the games are played?

    1. Jeff, thanks for the comment. Excellent point regarding the time slots. We actually have TV rating data for each game based on day (Saturday or Sunday) and time slot (first game or second game). We control for this when doing the analysis.

  2. My first thoughts of March Madness are Cinderella teams, David versus Goliath match-ups and disappointing upsets. It is interesting that you found a negligible correlation (from a brand equity perspective) between viewership and the David versus Goliath march-up. I would expect this correlation throughout the earlier rounds of the tournament when mainly the core fan-base supports the David and many games are broadcasted. However, I thought the correlation would shift once the David gained National presence and developed a strong following due to their underdog status. Though a David may enter the tournament with low brand equity and/or brand value, can both of these measurements temporarily “increase”? If so, wouldn’t this affect viewership? Further, did you find significant correlation differences between the viewership of match-ups where the Goliath had high brand equity/David had low brand equity and match-ups where the Goliath had high brand equity/David had moderate brand equity?

    Also, thanks for this post and your blog! I recently discovered your blog via an article published by the “Goizueta Newsroom” on and your research.

    Tulane Social Media Course-2013- Keyana F. Varnado

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