National media exposure during 2013 NCAA Tournament worth $555 million to Wichita State, study says

Members of the Wichita State basketball team, from left: coach Gregg Marshall, Malcolm Armstead, Cleanthony Early and Carl Hall take part in a press conference at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta before heading out to practice on Friday. (April 5, 2013)
Members of the Wichita State basketball team, from left: coach Gregg Marshall, Malcolm Armstead, Cleanthony Early and Carl Hall take part in a press conference at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta before heading out to practice on Friday. (April 5, 2013) The Wichita Eagle

Wichita State University researchers have proven the truth of the phrase “You can’t buy that kind of publicity.”

A study measuring the national media impact of the Shocker basketball team’s run to the NCAA Tournament’s Final Four last year found that print, broadcast and digital media exposure was worth more than $555 million to the university.

Researchers for the Partnership for the Advancement of Sport Management at WSU, who did the study, noted that the total is an estimated cost of exposure had Wichita State chosen to buy the coverage. Which it couldn’t have done, considering that the university’s entire budget is $291 million.

“Appearing in the tournament gives a university a very unique exposure that it’s not going to get anywhere else,” said Mike Ross, an instructor in the sport management department at WSU and lead investigator on the study.

The study took four months and its results were released Tuesday. The final $555 million figure actually is a conservative estimate, researchers said, because they couldn’t track all mentions of WSU via clip services, nor monitor all broadcasts everywhere for a complete assessment of the university’s on-screen logo and name usage.

The study explored the national coverage of WSU from March 15 to April 15 last year on the major television networks, in newspapers ranked in the top 12 in national circulation, and on Internet searches for WSU on Google and Yahoo. Its dollar estimates were based on advertising rates as well as some assumptions about how much air time the Shockers received during the tournament.

For example, 152 ESPN SportsCenter shows discussed the tournament on the air during that time, the study found. Researchers decided that WSU was mentioned an average of 30 seconds per show, based on an assumption that talk about the Shockers increased as they advanced to the Final Four. They might not have been mentioned often when the tournament started, but could have been discussed for up to several minutes or longer on the show during the Final Four, Ross said.

The study based a dollar value of WSU’s SportsCenter coverage on the cost of a 30-second ad on the show, which was $104,000.

The study determined that WSU was on screen during the 152 SportsCenter shows for a total of 76 minutes over the length of the tournament, a value of $15.8 million.

There were 77 other shows devoted to the tournament on other ESPN stations, other cable networks and on CBS, the study found. Dollar figures for those appearances by WSU were based on the same assumption, that WSU averaged 30 seconds of air time on those shows, and were based on the same $104,000, 30-second ad rate.

The total exposure of WSU on those shows, including pre-game shows and daily wrap-ups, was 38.5 minutes during the tournament, for a value of $8 million, the study said.

The Shockers also appeared in about 7.5 hours of nationally televised game action during their five-game run in the tournament. Second-round game advertisements averaged about $250,0000 per 30-second commercial, Sweet Sixteen games were valued at $400,000 per 30-second ad, and a 30-second spot during the semifinal game against Louisville went for $700,000, the study said.

Researchers assumed that WSU was on screen for about 90 minutes during each game for the five games, and assumed 30 minutes of commercials during each broadcast.

The study pegged the total value of all Wichita State broadcast appearances during the tournament, including game broadcasts, at $401.8 million.

Shocker head coach Gregg Marshall and Shocker players also were interviewed on national radio during the tournament, but researchers couldn’t come up with a dollar estimate for radio appearances and radio game broadcasts. They determined there were about 11.5 hours of appearances by WSU on nationally syndicated radio broadcasts, which included at least 13 nationally broadcast interviews and five games lasting two hours each.

The study found that 103 printed stories in 12 national newspapers and Sports Illustrated magazine were worth $2.75 million to the university. Researchers used the ad rate in USA Today as a base, and factored in cost-per-word and circulation figures to arrive at their estimate.

The top three print sources were the New York Times, Sports Illustrated and the Denver Post. The New York Times printed 13 stories that featured WSU, worth $698,146.27 to the university, the study determined. Sports Illustrated ran three stories worth $520,443 to WSU, and the Denver Post ran 31 articles valued at $315,400.

Exposure from digital media was valued at $150.7 million. Researchers used search engines and data retrieved via Google Analytics from Wichita State athletics, then multiplied the average results by the average cost-per-click for Google and Yahoo.

The study revealed an average of nearly 64 million search results for “Shockers Final Four 2013” and nearly 57 million search results for “Wichita State Final Four” on Google and Yahoo.

During the Final Four, the numbers of users viewing posts on WSU’s main Facebook site increased 10 times, and there was a twentyfold increase in likes. The site had a total reach of 285,000 compared with normal reach peaks of 10,000 to 20,000 daily.

Ross said the study was undertaken to figure out how much a trip to the tournament was worth to WSU. He guessed that going to the NCAA Tournament and losing in the first game is worth more to the university than winning an NIT championship.

“This shows that going to the NCAA is important and gives the university exposure it’s not going to get anywhere else,” Ross said.

The study concluded that another run to the Final Four by this year’s Shocker team would bring even more value to the university because of higher ad rates and the evolution of digital media.

The Partnership for the Advancement of Sport Management, which was formed last year to serve as a resource for sport management knowledge and practice, also is studying the impact of the team’s success on the sales of Shocker merchandise and on student admissions to the university, Ross said.

Related stories from Wichita Eagle