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Friday, June 2, 2023

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Aztecs fans cheer on the SDSU men's basketball team during their Final Four game against Florida Atlantic. (SDSU) Aztecs fans cheer on the SDSU men's basketball team during their Final Four game against Florida Atlantic. (SDSU)

Q&A: The Economic Impact of the Aztecs’ Final Four Run Goes Far Beyond the University

By Suzanne Finch

The Aztecs historic first run to the Final Four in the 2023 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament has reaped significant benefits to San Diego’s business community. 


Miro Copic, marketing lecturer and branding expert at San Diego State University’s Fowler College of Business, provides insight on the immediate economic effects of the team’s success and the potential long-term benefits the Aztecs’ Final Four appearance could have on the university, the region, and beyond. 


Does SDSU’s success in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament have an impact on San Diego’s business community? 


The impact was very specific. First, it helped restaurants and bars that aired SDSU’s games during the tournament. As SDSU went deeper in the tournament, more people went to bars and restaurants to cheer on the Aztecs. Second, it helped retailers selling Aztec-logoed apparel. Third, it helped the ratings and boosted ad costs for local media companies who broadcasted or reported on the tournament. The feeling of good will it provided to the San Diego business community was immense. Even the San Diego Padres pre-game warm-ups in SDSU jerseys generated national and regional media exposure and showcased the close-knit nature of the San Diego sports community.


Several analysts noted the large number of SDSU fans at the Final Four event. How did the Aztecs’ fans' willingness to travel affect businesses outside San Diego? 


The NCAA tournament is a special case. It is well documented that certain fan groups travel to watch their team. For example, Green Bay Packer and Las Vegas Raider fans are known to travel to away games. This is a somewhat new phenomenon for SDSU since this is the first time the team appeared in an NCAA final. Since the Final Four is a Saturday - Monday event, it was convenient for SDSU fans to make a long weekend out of a trip. This certainly benefited the City of Houston where the Final Four was held. If the Aztecs had won the championship game, spending per San Diego visitor in Houston would have been significantly higher. 


What effect might this Final Four’s appearance have on the SDSU brand? 


It elevates SDSU to an elite sports school. It will benefit the basketball program by attracting the best players and has a halo effect on other SDSU sports. 


An additional impact on the brand is to attract the best students. San Diego State already receives more applications than most schools in the country (around 100,000 for undergraduates). Other schools that had successful runs in the NCAA Basketball Tournament saw application increases from 15% to close to 100%. 


More importantly, SDSU’s appearance in the championship game will almost immediately increase both alumni donations and corporate sponsorships, which will go on for a couple of years. This will help SDSU academically and provide the additional resources to field competitive teams that can win championships. This has the potential to elevate SDSU into the top ranks of colleges and universities.