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A pink basketball against a blue background for a blog about social listening and March Madness.

March Madness 2023: Top Conversation Topics and Trends

Ann-Derrick Gaillot

Apr 4, 2023

Wondering how the 2023 March Madness hype played out online? As the college basketball tournament gains more fans each year, the digital conversations surrounding it hold a lot of insights for sports industry brands. We used our social listening solution to look at what NCAA Division I basketball tournament topics got everyone’s keyboards clattering. 

Tip: Read our social listening analysis of the 2024 tournament.

But First, What is March Madness?

March Madness is the annual championship basketball tournament for teams in the top competitive tier of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), the main governing body of college sports in the United States, as well as some schools in Canada. 

Happening primarily during (you guessed it) March, the games draw millions of television viewers every year. This year’s women’s Final Four was ESPN’s most-watched ever, drawing 4.5 million viewers per game and rocketing to 9.9 million viewers for the final. On the men’s side, about 9.4 million people watched each of the semi-final games. (Final numbers for the men’s final were not yet released as of this writing.)

Here’s some of what our social and media intelligence analysis found about the online conversation about March Madness this year.

Top Locations

From when the women’s and men’s tournaments began in mid-March through the finals on April 3 and 4, there were nearly 4 million mentions of March Madness-related keywords, phrases, and hashtags. About 170,000 of those came from Texas (where the finals took place), which racked up more mentions during the tournament than any other state. It was followed by California — home to the second-place men’s team, San Diego State — and Florida — which had two teams in the men’s Final Four, Florida Atlantic University and the University of Miami.

A bar graph showing Texas with the most March Madness mentions, followed by California, Florida, New York, Ohio, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Tennessee, and Kansas.

Interestingly, Ontario had the 23rd-most March Madness mentions, ahead of Alabama and New Jersey, which both had teams that advanced to the men’s Sweet 16 round. This may be because, according to the CBC, more Canadian athletes competed in March Madness this year than ever before. Laeticia Amihere, who hails from Mississauga, Ontario, even made it to the Final Four with the South Carolina Gamecocks. 

Learn more about the rise of satellite fan bases in our 2023 Industry Snapshot: Sports.

Men’s vs Women’s

Following the trend of television viewership, there were more online mentions of the men’s tournament than the women’s. However, as the series advanced into its final games, there were three days on which the conversation about the women’s tournament surpassed the men’s, including during the women’s final game on April 2.

A graph with two lines showing mentions of the men's and women's March Madness games over time. The men's line is consistently higher than the women's line except for on March 28 and 31 and April 2.

Interestingly, though the conversation of the women’s tournament was smaller, it included more mentions of the words “assists” and “rebounds”. This could suggest that people are more likely to talk about specific plays and teamwork in women’s college games, while conversations about men’s college games are more likely to mention shots and points.

The top keywords for the men's tournament next to the top keywords for the women's tournament. In each, the word "game" is the largest, denoting that it was the most-mentioned keyword.

Top Entities

Though the men’s tournament generated more mentions than the women’s, Iowa Hawkeyes point guard Caitlin Clark was mentioned 93,000 times during March Madness, more than any other player, man or woman. On the day of and after the women’s final game, conversations about Angel Reese, point guard on the LSU Tigers winning team, began to catch up with 31,000 mentions compared to 36,000 of Caitlin Clark, whose team came in second.

A word cloud showing the top March Madness 2023 keywords, with NCAA being the largest.

When it comes to schools, the home of the champion men’s team came out on top. There were 180,000 mentions of UConn (University of Connecticut) and another 35,000 of Huskies, the school’s mascot and team name. 

Learn more about the top athletic entities in our sports industry report.

Top Logos

Often the top sponsor of March Madness teams, Nike and its brand Jordan sponsored 40 men’s teams and 44 women’s teams this year, according to the Sports Business Journal. That spread paid off in the highly-watched final games, with both women’s teams and the champion UConn men’s team sporting the famous swoosh on their jerseys. Meanwhile, UConn’s opponents, the San Diego State men’s team, displayed the arguably just as famous Jumpman logo. By comparison, Under Armour sponsored nine women’s teams and 11 men’s teams, while Adidas sponsored 17 men’s teams and 15 women’s teams. 

With so much visual representation on the court, it’s safe to say that Nike was the brand that won March Madness. Our logo detection comparison analysis shows just how large that win was. Throughout the tournament, Nike’s logo was featured more than those of the other sponsors in images across news, blogs, and Reddit.

A line graph comparing the number of photos including the Adidas, Jordan, Nike, and Under Armour logos from March 15 through April 4. The Nike line has the highest value throughout.
A bar graph comparing mentions of the Adidas, Jordan, Nike, and Under Armour logos on blogs, Reddit, and news. On each bar, Nike has the highest value.

Without a doubt, March Madness 2023 shows just how much attention and interest college sports draw in North America. With Meltwater's social intelligence solutions, marketers and brands are better able to get in on the conversation.

Interested in learning more about rising sports industry trends across the world? Download our 2023 Industry Snapshot: Sports to get the latest data and insights.