Women’s March Madness ad revenue doubled this year, Disney VP says

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Women’s March Madness ad revenue doubled this year, Disney VP says

Disney is sold out of ad inventory for the Final Four and championship rounds of this year’s women’s March Madness tournament on ESPN, according to Jacqueline Dobies, Disney Advertising’s VP of revenue and yield management.

The tournament has 87 total advertisers, with an almost even split between new and returning brands. Google and Home Depot are among the new advertisers. Seven new categories joined in as well, including bottled water and home insurance.

“The hardest part was trying to find space for everybody, which is a great problem to have,” Dobies told Marketing Brew. “We’ve seen growth from existing categories, but we’ve also seen a lot of new categories enter this space.”

There are also several multiyear ESPN partners involved in the tournament this year, Dobies said, including halftime sponsor Unilever, which is part of Disney Advertising’s Level Up program, a framework it introduced last year to facilitate more spending on women’s sports. (Home Depot and Unilever are both advertising in the men’s tournament as well, which, as of last week, was all but sold out.)

Slow your roll

Revenue from the women’s tournament has doubled from last year, according to Dobies. Disney Advertising started fielding interest as early as May, she said, but her team didn’t immediately sell to every brand that came knocking.

If they had done that, “we would have been sold out months ago,” she said.

Instead, Disney Advertising tried to make room for brands in all stages of investment in women’s sports, including longtime partners in the space, newer entrants, and brands that were simply looking to advertise against basketball in general, Dobies said.

To capitalize on the interest in women’s college basketball, Disney Advertising is encouraging brands to spend on other women’s sporting events too, Dobies said. While brands are not required to extend buys beyond the women’s tournament, Dobies said, her team has been leveraging data to encourage advertisers to spread their spend across other sports like women’s volleyball, softball, or soccer.

“We want to try and leverage that interest to try and support women’s sports across the entire portfolio,” she said. “We want to try and use that momentum to help support all the other women’s sports that aren’t necessarily getting that same limelight right now.”

Tech roster

To encourage brands to spend across Disney’s portfolio as opposed to exclusively on March Madness, the team created two new audience segments for March Madness advertisers to target: fans of the men’s tournament and fans of the women’s tournament, VP of Programmatic Sales Matt Barnes said.

“They’re not just watching the games, but they’re watching the game, the game around the game, what’s going on social, checking scores,” he said. “The way that they interact with our whole portfolio really changes the way that we can reach them.”

While linear inventory is almost sold out, there’s still opportunities for brands to reach fans of the women’s tournament via other content they might be consuming, or via programmatic buys, which Disney has encouraged. Programmatic buying lets advertisers activate against “lightning-in-a-bottle moments,” like overtimes or spikes in game viewership on streaming platforms, he said.

“This isn’t a copy-and-paste RFP world anymore, where people are just buying the same thing, the same mix, that they bought year over year,” Dobies said. “We have less and less advertisers that are coming in and buying just one platform, or one sport, or one property specifically.”

This article initially appeared in Marketing Brew, a branch of Morning Brew.

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