CCU sees measurable benefits from NCAA basketball appearance

Coastal Carolina University reaped benefits money can’t buy when its men’s basketball team reached the NCAA tournament in March.

Fans nationwide took to the Internet and social media sites to investigate the institution and the No. 16-seeded team, which was making its first appearance in the tournament in 21 years.

The Chanticleers captured more attention with an unexpected lead at halftime against No. 1 seed Virginia and threatened to pull off a history-making win.

“The name recognition of the brand of Coastal Carolina University and of the Coastal Carolina University Chanticleers was tremendous coming through this tournament,” said Martha Hunn, CCU’s director of news and public affairs. “This is positive exposure that helps elevate the name of the university in the household, and there’s nothing greater for us.”

Interest began to stir heading into the tournament when CCU became eligible to play and then began to build, Hunn said. The university was mentioned in 4,486 media stories – for television and print – from January through April about the tournament and the university, with special interest in Chauncey and the definition of a chanticleer, she said.

The stories, which ran on media across the globe, garnered more than 2 billion unique, or individual, users, which is a very solid number, Hunn said. If the university had to pay for that exposure in advertising, she said it would be valued at about $18.8 million.

Total potential viewership was at more than 9 billion, and Hunn said that number includes a multiplier and represents exposure beyond exposure because when the TV is turned on there usually is more than one person watching. The advertising value of the total potential viewership is about $84.8 million.

Web traffic also more than doubled on the Friday night of the game from normal Friday traffic, said Bill Plate, associate vice president for university communication, who tracked the numbers with Google Analytics. Last year on that Friday, the site had about 24,000 unique visitors, he said, but that number grew to 41,300 the Friday of the game, and traffic doubled on both the homepage and on the admissions page.

“There’s no way to tell if those converted into applications,” Plate said, “but we can tell that we had people go to our website to see who we are and what we’re all about.”

Greg Thornburg, vice president of enrollment services, said the university doesn’t track that kind of information, but hits to the admissions Facebook page doubled the week of the game, from about 5,000 to 10,000 visits.

“Any positive exposure is a good thing,” Thornburg said.

Matt Hogue, interim athletic director, has likened the NCAA tournament to the Super Bowl, with such a large number of people who are tuned in to an event at a distinct time, and said March was one of the highest revenue-driving months for CCU’s online athletic store, He said it takes time to see how that type of exposure takes hold in the athletics program, but said the bragging point is something that boosts the Chanticleers’ profile.

Plate said having a unique mascot helped CCU’s social media traffic, and the night of the game, “Chanticleers” was one of the trending words on Twitter. The university’s website – which usually has a high level of traffic from within the state of South Carolina – saw a drop in S.C. traffic specifically on game day but went up significantly in seven states – North Carolina, Georgia, Virginia, Florida, Pennsylvania, New York and California.

“We saw an awful lot of traffic because we were one of the 16 seeds that could possibly beat the No. 1 seed,” Plate said. “Some analysts were predicting it, and there was a little bit of merit to that.”