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The Rising Tide of Women’s NCAA Basketball: A Boom for Retailers

Marcelino Velasquez | May 28, 2024

The Growing Allure of Women’s NCAA Basketball

Each March, the fervor around NCAA basketball reaches a fever pitch, drawing massive TV audiences and creating a flurry of commercial opportunities. This excitement amplifies when standout players and top teams make their way into the final rounds. The burgeoning interest in the women’s division presents unique opportunities for retailers to engage with an enthusiastic and expanding fan base.

Women’s college basketball has entered a new era of popularity. Over the last three years, the audience for the women’s NCAA final has grown at a faster rate than the men’s NCAA final. In a historic turn during the 2024 season, the women’s NCAA final attracted more viewers than the men’s final for the first time. This significant milestone highlights the growing appeal of women’s college basketball and signals a broader cultural shift, with tangible effects rippling across the economic landscape.

Inside a large shopping area.

Analyzing the Impact on Store Visits

Amid this backdrop, we explored whether the March Madness phenomenon extends its influence on the retail sector, particularly to Sporting Goods Stores. Data from Precisely’s PlaceIQ, which provides access to foot traffic metrics for tens of millions of U.S. retail and other brick-and-mortar businesses across various verticals including dining, auto, grocery, and entertainment, revealed compelling trends for retailers.

Visits to Sporting Goods stores increased by 5% nationwide in March 2024 compared to February 2024, marking a clear boost in consumer activity during March Madness. Focusing on the Women’s NCAA tournament from March 20th to April 7th , 2024, we analyzed Sporting Goods stores across U.S. states against an 8-week baseline. The distinction between states with Elite 8 teams and those without revealed a fascinating trend. States with teams in the Elite 8 saw a 13% increase in visits to Sporting Goods stores, while states without such teams experienced a smaller, yet notable, 9% rise.

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How Women’s March Madness Catalyzes Retail Success

Taking a closer look, we explored the insights further by categorizing states based on whether they had Elite 8 teams in either 2024 or 2023, or neither year. This deeper analysis unearthed nuanced trends that are particularly compelling for retailers:

  • States with teams in the quarterfinals this year experienced the highest boost in-store visits, with a whopping 14% increase.
  • States with teams making the Elite 8 in the past two years saw a 10% increase.
  • States without any quarterfinal appearances experienced the smallest boost, with an 8% increase.

This pattern suggests that the success of local teams in the NCAA tournament can have a direct and potent effect on footfall traffic for retailers. The insights underscore the broader appeal of women’s NCAA basketball and illustrate its potential as a driver of in-store activity, particularly for businesses tuned into the rhythms of local and national sports events.

As we continue to witness this cultural shift, retailers have much to gain from aligning their strategies with the schedules and successes of these rising sports stars, and aligning their marketing efforts with the exciting events that capture the nation’s attention. By leveraging tools like PlaceIQ’s visitation insights, retailers can optimize their marketing efforts to capitalize on these peak periods of consumer interest and activity, riding the wave of events like March Madness and scoring big with a passionate and growing fan base.  To learn more read about our product PlaceIQ Movement.