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13 Fascinating Financial Facts About March Madness

Tom Huffman
13 Fascinating Financial Facts About March Madness

The NCAA men’s basketball tournament -- March Madness -- is one of the most exciting sports events of the year, drawing tens of millions of fans who watch the action in the stands, on the couch and even at work.

The tournament offers a big financial boost to cities and some industries. It might even sweeten your savings, if you do well in your office pool.

The numbers that are involved are as towering as the players. Take a look at these examples of Money Madness.

1. Work gets sidelined

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Many workers slack off during the day games.

The tournament's blanket television coverage hooks fans, including many workers who slack off during the day games.

The outplacement and executive coaching firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas estimates the lost productivity will cost employers $13.3 billion.

As smartphones have gotten better and data plans have made streaming of the games easier, many employers have simply given up on policing staff. The tourney is just too popular!

2. Wanna bet?

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Illegal betting on March Madness is huge.

The majority of gambling on March Madness occurs illegally (and technically, that includes your office pool!), so it can difficult to determine the true figures on betting.

The American Gaming Association estimated that 47 million U.S. adults would wager $8.5 billion billion on the 2019 tournament, including 4.1 million who would bet at a casino sportsbook or using a legal app.

How's your bracket looking? You might want to check today's best savings rates to find a good way to bank your winnings.

3. Seat prices touch the rim

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Seats for the tournament can sell for thousands of dollars in the secondary market.

As of late March, tickets for the 2019 National Championship game scheduled for April 8 in Minneapolis were selling in the official secondary market for up to $12,500 each.

But that's a bargain compared to the NBA finals. Last year, courtside seats for Game 2 of the Golden State Warriors-Cleveland Cavaliers series were offered for as much as $77,000, according to TicketCity.

4. Package, er, deals?

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If you want to save on a Final Four package deal, expect to be cramped in your hotel room.

The tournament's official ticket seller has been promoting 2019 package deals for the Final Four — including game tickets and a hotel room in downtown San Antonio — starting at $2,545 per person.

Note: That's the price at the cheapest of three possible hotels, and you have to be willing to squeeze four people into your room to get that per-person rate.

5. Pricey rights

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Broadcasters are willing to pay billions for the rights to broadcast the March Madness tournament.

Because March Madness commands a huge television audience and is an advertising bonanza, CBS Sports and Turner have happily paid big money on a long-term contract to broadcast the games.

The media giants agreed to spend over $19 billion to lock up the national television rights to the NCAA men’s basketball tournament for a period of 20 years, from 2011-2032.

6. March M-ads-ness

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Given the size of the audience, companies are willing to shell out a lot of money to advertise during March Madness.

The NCAA finals rival only the NFL finals as a major advertising event, says Kantar Media, and ad spending on the college tournament rises by up to 5% per year.

Companies spent $1.32 billion on commercial time during March Madness in 2018, Kantar says.

Here's a reminder of why marketers love to join the madness: An estimated 23 million TV viewers watched the 2017 title game between North Carolina and Gonzaga.

7. Prize money for some players

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Some players have a chance to win prize money during the 3X3U National Championship.

A lucrative side tournament introduced in 2018 features four-man teams from NCAA Division 1 schools eliminated early from the main event.

This year's second annual "3X3U National Championship" offers $150,000 in prize money.

The players will be seniors who have exhausted their eligibility in the NCAA, so the prize money is legal for the participants to accept.

8. A financial goose egg for most

Most college players receive no pay.

While a select few players go on to make millions in the NBA, the vast majority of March Madness participants will never earn any money from basketball.

As student-athletes, college basketball players are generally not allowed to be paid for playing.

They typically get scholarships — along with the unique excitement of playing in front of roaring crowds under the bright lights.

9. Putting a head on the beer industry

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March is a frothy month for brewers.

Each year, the NCAA tournament helps make the brewing industry a lot frothier, financially speaking.

Brewers increase their production, and — depending on the region — beer sales increase by as much as 26%, says Upserve, a maker of restaurant management software.

The college basketball playoffs put the biggest head on beer sales in the Midwest. Beer buying gets the smallest lift in the Northeast, where sales rise just 10%.

10. How you say 9,200,000,000,000,000,000

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Good luck with that bracket. You'll need it!

It's estimated that Americans complete more than 70 million brackets for the NCAA tournament each year.

The odds of completing a perfect bracket are nearly impossible: 1 in 9.2 quintillion. That's 9.2 billion billion.

It’s mathematically easier to win the Mega Millions lottery back to back than to fill out a bracket with no errors. Good luck!

11. Big wins for host cities

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Host cities rake it in during the tournament.

Dayton, Ohio, is a perennial host of the “First Four” games that kick off the madness. The event gives the local economy a more than $4 million boost each year, local officials say.

March Madness means big business for restaurants, hotels and especially bars in the lucky cities where the games are played.

12. Dribbling out money

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The NCAA shares the wealth with schools.

The NCAA distributes a portion of the proceeds from the tournament back to the schools providing the teams and talent.

In 2016, the association shared $205 million with its conferences, to be split among the individual universities.

13. Coaches with the most

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A college basketball coach can be a state's highest-paid public employee.

In many states, a college coach is paid the highest salary of any public employee. In Kentucky, the top earner is John Calipari, who coaches the University of Kentucky’s basketball program.

Calipari is making $7.99 million in total pay for the current season largely thanks to a seven-year, $52.5 million deal he signed in 2014. Invest it well, Coach!