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Media exposure from Zags’ tournament run valued at $406 million

UPDATED: Thu., May 11, 2017, 11:26 a.m.

Gonzaga fan Kevin Makens reacts during a watch party as Gonzaga faces North Carolina for the national title on Monday, April 3, 2017, at McCarthey Athletic Center in Spokane, Wash. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga coach Mark Few, left, and players Przemek Karnowski, Johathan Williams and Nigel Williams-Goss keep things light at at a press conference, Sunday, April 2, 2017, in Phoenix. GU officials say a media tracking company estimates that the value of the Bulldogs run toward the championship totaled more than $400 million in broadcast and online exposure. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

As the Bulldogs advanced to last month’s NCAA championship game, Gonzaga University got a staggering amount of broadcast and online exposure.

The value of the coverage of the basketball team’s historic run surpassed $400 million, according to GU officials.

The university hired Meltwater, a San Francisco-based media tracking company, to put a dollar figure on the coverage of the Zags through six games over 18 days. The company calculated it at $406 million.

The private Jesuit university also set records for website page views and social media engagement.

All the publicity appears to be helping Gonzaga recruit students: Early inquiries from prospective students for the 2018-19 academic year are up by 10,000 compared to a year ago, officials said.

“I think it underscores for everyone in the institution the value of having a great basketball team,” Peter Tormey, a GU spokesman, said Wednesday. “It’s a benefit for enrollment in helping us attract the best and brightest students. And it benefits our fundraising.”

Most of Gonzaga’s students receive scholarships that offset the cost of tuition, Tormey said.

Meltwater tracked Gonzaga coverage on television and online sites from the beginning of March Madness through the April 3 championship game in Glendale, Arizona. The $406 million estimate represents how much the coverage would have cost if Gonzaga had purchased advertising for the spots, Tormey said.

March Madness attracts high numbers of college-age viewers and prospective college students, so those watching the tournament are Gonzaga’s target audience. The deadline to commit to attending Gonzaga is in early May, which makes March and April important months to showcase the university.

“The opportunity to be in the spotlight gives us an opportunity to shine a light on our academic programs,” Tormey said. “We’re able to reflect attention on the institution and why it’s so strong.”

Before the tournament, the university’s marketing team geared up for a blitz of visits to Gonzaga’s two main websites – gonzaga.edu and unfold.gonzaga.edu.

“On the day of the national championship game, we had over 350,000 page views on the sites,” said Dave Sonntag, GU’s associate vice president for marketing and communications.

The websites received 2 million page views during the Zags’ March Madness run starting in mid-March. That’s a high number, because the Gonzaga sites typically average about 8 million page views annually, Sonntag said. The GoZags.com site – the official site for Gonzaga Athletics – had 2.5 million views.

Searches for Gonzaga on mobile phones were directed from the university’s main website to unfold.gonzaga.edu. The micro site tells inspiring stories about GU students and showcases other aspects of the university. Visitors can click links for more information about applying to GU, donating to the school and job opportunities for students.

“We made it a strategy, knowing that a ton of people would be searching on their phones for Gonzaga,” Sonntag said. The feature was disabled after the tournament ended.

Gonzaga also set new social media records. Nearly 200,000 people watched a live Facebook video after the Bulldogs’ Final Four victory over South Carolina. The Facebook video was taken in the Hemmingson Center on campus, where the game was broadcast for fans.

“It meant the world to us,” Sonntag said of the coverage for the men’s basketball team. “We’ll do everything to take advantage of that kind of exposure to be a financially healthy university, provide scholarships and get students here to Spokane.”



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