Millions Make NCAA Picks Like the President: on ESPN

Obama Fills Out Bracket on 'SportsCenter' as Network Capitalizes on 'Game Around the Game'

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- President Barack Obama picked North Carolina over Louisville in the NCAA basketball tournament, and sports fans are picking ESPN to the tune of more than 5 million filled-out brackets at ESPN.com, a 37% increase from last year.

President Obama makes his picks as ESPN's Andy Katz looks on.
President Obama makes his picks as ESPN's Andy Katz looks on. Credit: Pete Souza/White House Photo
Mr. Obama filled out his brackets just like any other college-basketball-obsessed fan around the country for March Madness -- but the president made his picks in the White House Map Room for ESPN's "SportsCenter" yesterday. The segment aired first at noon and then multiple times throughout the day. At its peak, ESPN said, fans were registering their own brackets at a rate of 3,900 a minute, or 65 per second.

The clip, which is more than nine minutes long, has also been airing on ESPN.com.

Mr. Obama's appearance played into ESPN's strategy of capitalizing on what sales president Ed Erhart calls the "game around the game."

CBS owns both TV and web rights to the NCAA's March Madness and says it has sold $30 million in online advertising against the tournament, up from $23 million last year. CBSSports.com has already started streaming live games online.

But Yahoo showed last summer you don't have to pay billions for sports rights to build a significant online property. Yahoo Sports boasted more Olympics traffic than NBC Universal's NBCOlympics.com during the games, even though NBCOlympics.com had plenty of Olympics video, some of it live.

We'll see as the tournament wears on how CBSSports.com does compared with larger sports sites that don't have tournament video but do have highlights and other tournament content to entertain hoops faithful. CBSSports.com was the sixth-ranked sports site in February, according to ComScore, behind Yahoo, ESPN, AOL Sports, Fox Sports and NFL.com.

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