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.