As it does for other major events including the NFL Super Bowl and the Oscars, Edmunds.com measured shopping consideration on its website for specific models advertised during the college basketball tournament. This year, Edmunds.com also evaluated performance in regional markets that were home to Elite Eight and Final Four teams. The shopping consideration metric used is an indicator of marketing and advertising effectiveness, not necessarily consumer purchase intent or future sales. Percentage changes in shopping consideration are measured against a baseline level of consideration leading up to the tournament, before advertising launches.
Of the approximately dozen vehicle models advertised nationally during the NCAA tournament and monitored by Edmunds.com, the Acura RLX, Buick Encore and Fiat 500 — all of which were heavily advertised from the beginning to the end of the tournament— saw the biggest percentage increases in shopping consideration by consumers on Edmunds.com.
The newly launched Acura RLX got the biggest lift in shopping consideration through the Elite Eight game weekend at 103-percent. It took second place after the Buick Encore during the championship weekend with a still high 65-percent increase in shopping consideration.
Honda is positioning the new flagship car in its tagline as "luxury, taken to a whole new level." In addition to the NCAA tournament, the Acura RLX is being advertised heavily during golf tournaments, including this past weekend's Masters and the upcoming U.S. Open.
In its third year as the NCAA's Official Partner of Human Achievement, Buick advertised heavily during March (and April) Madness with a number of different commercials for four different vehicles. The General Motors' brand put on the full-court press that included all-new ads during Final Four weekend and championship game.
A debut commercial for the new Buick Encore was the most widely shown Buick ad throughout tournament. In the spot, the Encore darts amongst dinosaurs on city streets to show a small, nimble car for modern, urban living.
As a result of the ad campaign, the Encore saw the biggest lift in shopping consideration during the Final Four/Championship weekend with a 122-percent increase compared with its pre-tournament baseline. Through the end of the Elite Eight weekend, it ranked third with a 60-percent lift. While shopping consideration doesn't indicate future sales, the Buick Encore had strong sales in March, its first full month on the market, of 3,003 units.
Other Buick models provided assists. During the Final Four, Buick premiered a new spot featuring football star Peyton Manning in addition to other Manning ads that have previously aired. Focusing on safety features and called "Blindsided," the new ad for the Buick Verano scored slight increases through the last couple of weekends of basketball play.
Buick LaCrosse commercials, some previously aired and some new ones, again starred basketball great Shaquille O'Neal. In the new "More Than I Expected" spot that made its debut during the Final Four, the basketball legend discovers the Lacrosse offers more than a typical luxury sedan. Consideration for the LaCrosse throughout the final games was up 10 percent or slightly more.
Commercials for the Buick Enclave resulted in no change in shopping consideration.
The Fiat 500 ranked No. 2 for biggest percentage increases in shopping consideration through the end of the Elite Eight games and third during the final weekend of games with lifts of 68 percent and 62 percent, respectively. The Fiat 500 ad features the car soaring off a windy Italian road into the ocean. Another stars the Fiat 500 Abarth Cabrio coming to the rescue of a woman at the beach who unknowing has a scorpion crawling up her body.
The most frequently shown ads for the Volkswagen Beetle Convertible — those featuring the masked man shopping at the convenience store — drove a No. 4 ranking for highest percentage increase in shopping consideration for the two final weekends of NCAA basketball play with 24 percent and 34 percent. Beetle sales in March soared by triple-digits to more than 4,000 vehicles. Commercials for the Volkswagen Passat and Volkswagen Jetta also led to double-digit gains just behind the Beetle Convertible during both weekends.
Advertised heavily during the tournament, the Infiniti JX garnered only a 7-percent lift in shopping consideration through the end of the Elite Eight weekend. Focusing on safety, the commercial featured the seven-passenger crossover with a family aboard backing out of a driveway. The JX's obstacle detection alerts the driver to a child pushing a Cozy Coupe into its path.
The skateboarding Chevrolet Sonic ad generated a 19-percent lift in shopping consideration through the Elite Eight games and a 15-percent rise during the final weekend. Jeep Grand Cherokee saw only a 7-percent gain through the end of the Elite Eight weekend.
The Detroit market, home to the University of Michigan, saw a 22-percent gain in shopping consideration across the board on Edmunds.com from already the highest baseline of any market represented by an Elite Eight team.
Other markets with already high baseline numbers also saw gains. Milwaukee, represented by Marquette University in the Elite Eight, and Raleigh-Durham- Fayetteville, home to the Duke Blue Devils, saw 18 percent and 15 percent gains, respectively, in overall shopping consideration on Edmunds.com. The Wichita area, represented by Wichita State, saw a significant 15-percent increase but on a small base.
Gainesville, Fla., home to the University of Florida Gators, was the smallest market of the Elite Eight and had a 12-percent hike. Not much larger, Syracuse, N.Y., represented by the Syracuse University Orange, had a 6-percent rise. And though Columbus, Ohio, home court for the Ohio State Buckeyes, was among top four in terms of size among the eight measured markets, it had a small gain of 6 percent.
Despite winning the national NCAA championship, Louisville was dead last among the Elite Eight markets in shopping consideration gains with a mere 6 percent on a small base.
On a regional basis, Buick was the clear winner for increasing shopping consideration in its vehicles. Buick saw the highest increase in consideration in six of the Elite Eight markets during the championship weekend, demonstrating its full-court press in the final weekend paid off. From the start of the tournament to the end of the Elite Eight games, Buick Encore had the highest consideration increase in three of the eight markets and picked up first-place spots in two more markets by the final shot of the championship game.
The Verano earned the highest lift in the Detroit market during the Elite Eight and final four weekends; likewise, it was the vehicle that saw the highest lift the final weekend in Gainesville, Fla., as well.
The Acura RLX scored the biggest consideration increases in Raleigh-Durham- Fayetteville, and Syracuse, N.Y. during the Elite Eight weekend and in Wichita State's home market during the Final Four weekend.
The Fiat 500 scored the biggest consideration increase in Milwaukee through the Elite Eight games and through the championship game. Through the Elite Eight games, the Jetta saw the highest consideration gain of all vehicles measured in the Gainesville, Fla., market.