CBS, WBD Sell Out Men's March Madness Ad Inventory in Record-Breaking Fashion

The companies surpassed their linear goal and hauled in more than $1 billion

Following 2022’s record-breaking year, the ad sales teams at Warner Bros. Discovery and CBS have something new to dance about.

Ahead of Selection Sunday on March 12, the NCAA Division 1 Men’s Basketball Tournament’s advertising inventory is “virtually sold out”—surpassing last year’s $1 billion haul.

In fact, the companies “significantly” surpassed the previous year, Jon Diament, evp of advertising sales at Warner Bros. Discovery, told reporters late Wednesday.

According to John Bogusz, evp of CBS sports sales at Paramount Advertising, sales saw mid- to high single-digit increases throughout the tournament. In the prior two years, prices ranged from “a couple of hundred thousand dollars,” starting with the First Four, to well over $2 million for a 30-second spot in the championship game.

The two companies jointly broadcast the tournament each year, and CBS has the rights to the Final Four this year. It’s the 12th year CBS and Warner Bros. Discovery (formerly WarnerMedia) have teamed up; however, it’s the first with the merged company.

“You’ve probably heard about headwinds in the advertising community and spending being a little softer. That is not the case in the sports marketplace,” Bogusz said. “[It] continues to hold up extremely well in this economic environment, and that holds true for the NCAA tournament.”

The companies surpassed their goal for linear dollars, and their digital product, March Madness Live, is also “virtually sold out.”

Overall, there is still some scattered availability throughout the tournament, but if brands want to advertise in the first weekend or Final Four/championship, they’re out of luck.

There’s not much availability in the Sweet Sixteen either, but the companies “can still take some additional dollars” with remaining inventory, according to Bogusz.

A plethora of partners

Though the collapse of cryptocurrency may have impacted other major sporting events like the Super Bowl, March Madness finds itself sailing smoothly as the category did not spend on the tournament at all last year.

The biggest categories include auto, QSR and movie studios, as well as technology.

Corporate partnerships also remained strong, with every company returning except Geico. With the addition of new partner Dick’s Sporting Goods, corporate partnerships stayed at 17 in total.

Once again, there are three major sponsors, referred to as corporate champions, in AT&T, Coca-Cola and Capital One. These corporate champions program partners can activate across all 90 NCAA Championships all year round, including games outside the men’s tournaments.