What’s the Price Tag on Tournament Time?

Tournament time. It’s all about college basketball. Waving your team’s colors, watching a few games with friends—that sort of thing.

That’s all true, but it is also about a mad amount of money.

About half of Americans’ overall sports spending goes to the costs of attending actual games—that’s half of $100 billion, by the way. The rest goes to various other aspects of our love for sports, some of which may make you want to consider some insurance (others may make you want to REALLY want consider some insurance).

Part of that sporting events spending this year will be the money people shell out for a seat at one of the 67 March Madness basketball games. The average price for a tournament game seat is in the hundreds of dollars, and that’s just at retail, where all-session passes to the 2017 Final Four went as high as $9,600 for prime stadium real estate. How this year’s prices will shake out overall remains to be seen, but 2017 prices were up 29 percent over 2016.

Of course, less than a million people can actually go to the games. That means a lot more than ticket sales goes into the spending spree surrounding the NCAA Division 1 men’s basketball championships.

Betting Big Money

How many times a year do you use the word “bracket?” Try counting it up, sometime; the number probably isn’t very high, unless you’re a tax accountant. But college basketball tournament time is all about the “bracket.” According to the American Gaming Association (AGA), 70 million tournament brackets will be filled out this year, attempting to predict the outcomes of match-ups all the way down to championship title game. The money that Americans will be wagering on the tournament this year is estimated by AGA at $10.4 billion.

Enjoying More Than a Few Beers

In February of 2017, the beer industry produced about 13.5 million barrels of beer. In March, they increased production by 3.5 million barrels. Sure, St. Patrick’s Day is right in the middle of the month, but that’s just 24 hours. It’s a pretty safe tournament-season bet that much of that brew was quaffed by the light of a televised March Madness game. With beer producers making a very-roughly estimated $9 billion that month, you can imagine how much we the people spent on six-packs and bar rounds at the retail level.

Getting Distracted at Work

Following the tournament tends to be a very all-consuming thing for a lot of people, especially when they’ve got some money in a betting pool. With a lot of casual bracket pools going on in workplaces nationwide, a lot of attention gets paid to the tournament during working hours. Whether people are gathered around a breakroom television, listening to the radio, or online-streaming at their desks, one study puts the total price tag for unproductive workday hours at around $4 billion.

Getting To Out of Town Games

Whether it’s a long car ride to a neighboring state or a cross-country plane flight, travel expenses add up. That can be especially true when you’re heading to an NCAA host city where a lot of amenities are going at a premium due to demand. If you’re a diehard fan, it gets well into the thousands of dollars. If the road to the final four is on your bucket list, be prepared to spend big bucks. Things aren’t getting any cheaper!

Spending Money

With all those people watching the games to see how their brackets are panning out, advertisers want a chance to get in front of all those faces, and they’re willing to spend a total in excess of $1 billion for the opportunity. By the time the championship game rolls around, advertisers can expect to pay in the neighborhood of $1.5 million for a 30-second commercial. That’s not a Super Bowl price tag, but broadcasters aren’t complaining. CBS and Turner Broadcasting need the cash to make back the billions and billions they’ve paid for television rights to the tournament through 2032.

There’s a lot more spending that goes on around this time than we’ve covered here. For instance, there’s probably a lot of soda being bought along with all that beer. And whatever and wherever people are enjoying their beverage of choice, they’re going to need something to eat with it. Somebody’s going to be selling a lot of burgers, pizzas and potato chips!

Wherever you find yourself enjoying the tournament this year, here’s wishing you a great time!

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