The Economic Impact Of “March Madness” from The Vantage Weekly

As I was enjoying the first couple rounds of this year’s NCAA Tournament and thinking up a great blog topic using basketball as a metaphor for business, Monday’s issue of The Vantage Weekly came to my inbox.  My good friend John Stewart gave me special permission to repost the Management Impact from this week.  Thanks John!

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The Economic Impact Of “March Madness”

The Madness in March extends well beyond the court action of the NCAA Basketball Tournament. We chuckle after hearing reports on the losses in worker productivity from time spent on all things “tourney”. In fact, Challenger, Gray & Christmas estimates the losses in productivity to be between $1.8B and $4.0B, but it’s nearly impossible to confirm and weigh against generated revenue.

One offset to lost productivity is the revenue from added consumption. The economic impact to the hosting cities for first weekend games is estimated at $4M to $6M each. The Final Four weekend is worth an estimated $13 million to it’s host city, though there is variation depending on the city and the contestants.

In their 2003 study, “An Economic Slam Dunk or March Madness?”, Matheson and Baade did the math and found that the men’s NCAA Division I tournaments since 1970 actually provided only a slight economic gain to host cities in opening rounds while the final four lost money. However, this seemed counterintuitive so we took a quick glance for ourselves. Estimates from the Indiana Department of Revenue show that 2006 Final Four host Indianapolis (Marion County data) had average annual tax revenue growth of 45% in March and April of 2006, which slowed to about 10% in 2007 and was -1% in 2005. They also hosted in 2010, but it’s very hard to control for economic conditions. In other words there was a clear and significant direct economic impact from spending. Also, indirectly more people would be hired temporarily and revenues would be raised by local government on local projects in preparation, which would also boost local economic activity. Of course this is much more difficult to measure but does help.

It’s not just the basketball that’s competitive. One estimate states that 70 cities bid for the 39 spots to host the 2011, 2012, and 2013 tournaments. Being competitive requires cities to invest 100’s of millions for facilities and other NCAA standards for hosting. Amortizing these expenses and accounting for the losses in productivity shows a quick offset to the aforementioned gains. We may never actually know with any precision the real economic impact, but we do know it’s arguably one of the greatest annual sporting events. And, although productivity might fall briefly, the happiness it brings may just be better in the long run! Enjoy.

Thanks John for a great post!  I forgive you for kicking my butt in our bracket competition.