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It's time for March Money Madness

Crunch Time


So, how are your brackets doing?

Don’t give me that look. You know what I’m talking about.

Everyone knows, except any recently landed Vulcans, what is meant by the phrase “How’s your bracket doing?” It means it’s that time of year again when office productivity goes kablooey, sports bars roll in the dough and suddenly everybody is a Gonzaga Bulldog fan from way back.

It’s NCAA basketball tournament time baby. March Madness!

Where the Christmas/New Year’s holiday season has its office parties, March has its office pools. As in betting pools, prognosticating who’s going to advance to college basketball progressively sanctified promised land – the Sweet 16, Elite 8, Final Four and that holiest of holies, a national title.

Make no mistake either, it’s more than just about bragging rights, who wins the title, who upset who, who picked Gonzaga to advance beyond the second round. It’s big bucks – as in BIG bucks!

According to a March 2012 article by Forbes writer Chris Smith, a team reaching the Final Four will earn its conference $9.5 million. It’s a complex formula created by the NCAA, who can’t do anything simple. My guess is they’re secretly behind our tax code too.

Heck, even one of the 32 teams losing in the now second round during the tournament’s first two days generates $1.9 million for its respective conference. That ain’t chump change.

There’s tons of money to be made by the various sites hosting teams through increased economic impact from fans sleeping in hotels, eating at restaurants, shopping at cute antique curio stores and generally spending money.

There’s also money in advertising – oh, baby. In a March 6 story in Ad Week, Kantar Media reveals that last year’s March Madness surpassed even the National Football League playoffs as the top sports event for advertising with just over $1 billion spent between March 13 and April 2, 2012. By comparison, the month-long NFL playoffs generated $976.3 billion in ad revenue.

The big winners were the CBS and Turner networks, combining to bring us every – single – game – played – and will be doing so for the next dozen years. I’ve got to get more TVs.

According to Kantar, last year a 30-second spot for the opening round games went for $100,000. That jumped to $350,000 for the Sweet 16, $700,000 for the Final Four and a cool $1.34 million for the title game.

Just think about that when you hit the can Monday night, April 8 during the title game. For about the same amount of time it takes for you to get rid of your beer or pop, more money than you’ll ever likely earn in your lifetime, and your kids’ lifetimes, will have been shelled out selling, well, beer and pop along with cars, snacks and anything else associated with good times in the ole U.S. of A.

By comparison, ESPN got $1.14 million for a 30-second spot during the BCS title game, CBS and Fox garnered $1.46 million for spots during the AFC and NFC championship games and NBC drew $3.5 million for 30 seconds of Super Bowl ad space.


And what about the rest of us? What’s in it for us?

If you’re an employer, likely lost wages and productivity. According to a report released March 13 by the global outplacement firm (now there’s a very corporate America phrase) Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc., nearly one-third of employees will spend one to three hours or more watching games during the work day.

That’s three million workers, mostly people producing reports, memos, ideas, news stories (hee, hee, hee) costing companies around $134 million over the first two days of the tournament alone. And what will this watching do?

“At the end of the day, March Madness will not even register as a blip on the overall economy,” Challenger, Gray & Christmas CEO John Challenger said in a news release. “Sequestration is going to have a far bigger impact.”

Sorry to bring up that dirty, “S” word, I know how some people feel.

A lot of us following the games will be doing so as part of office pools, which are illegal in some states. My guess is nobody will be checking – they likely have their own pools.

So have fun and don’t worry about calling in sick because you can catch all the games at your desk. And make sure your brackets are always up to date.

John McCallum can be reached at


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