Monday night, the 2018 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament came to a close with the National Championship game between #1 Villanova and #3 Michigan. The tournament had a bracket-busting start with upsets in the early rounds, and Cinderella-hopeful Loyola made it all the way to the Final 4, but March Madness ultimately closed out with a third title for powerhouse Villanova. Throughout the course of the tournament and during the final game, 4C monitored buzz surrounding the teams, advertisers, sponsors, and top food & beverage affinities. 

While the University of Michigan led as the most engaged team overall throughout the tournament, Villanova took over the title for social engagement during the final game with nearly 170,000 engagements. The game itself amassed over 500,000 engagements between tip off and post-game festivities.

The game’s top moment came when Villanova grabbed its third NCAA title, which generated over 65,000 engagements in the 10 minutes following the buzzer. The next most engaging moment happened after Villanova’s Donte DiVincenzo winked at the cameras following a 9-point streak during the 2nd half.

Throughout the tournament, official NCAA sponsors saw significant social media buzz. Wendy’s was the most engaged sponsor with over 187,000 engagements between Selection Sunday and the National Championship. Google took the second spot with nearly 104,000 engagements.

Ahead of the final game, we used the 4C Insights Affinity Graph™ to look into the top brand, celebrity, and TV affinities for Michigan and Villanova. Affinities can help advertisers determine other interests of their audiences, uncovering untapped opportunities to capture attention across screens. For example, advertisers looking to appeal to Michigan fans could buy spots during or sync digital ads with the Little League World Series, while ads associated with The Goldbergs would appeal to audiences engaging with Villanova.

The 4C Insights Affinity Graph™ also revealed the restaurants and beer brands that people who engage with the NCAA Basketball Tournament also engage with. We monitored engagement around these brands during the tournament and found that official sponsor Wendy’s was the restaurant affinity with the greatest volume of engagement, while Red Stripe was the beer brand that experienced the most buzz.

Brands that advertised during this year’s tournament saw an increase in social media engagement surrounding their TV ads. During the Final 4, Capital One, which ran a series of March Madness ads starring Samuel L. Jackson in addition to ads with spokeswoman Jennifer Garner, saw the greatest engagement lift in the two minutes following its TV ads, with an average 300% increase. During the National Championship, Buffalo Wild Wings had the greatest lift with an average 253% increase in social engagements following ads depicting strangers celebrating their team’s win and a fan ignoring his phone while watching a game at one of the chain’s restaurants.

At 4C, we keep a finger on the pulse of sports, pop-culture, and politics as big moments play out across screens around the world. Stay tuned for more Impact Reports and subscribe to our newsletter to get updates in your inbox.