NEW YORK: Turner Broadcasting is using neuroscience to help marketers determine the return on partnership investments, an exercise that includes the engagement levels delivered by ads shown during March Madness.

Jay Leon, Turner VP/Sports Research, discussed the company's neuro research initiative, which dates back to 2013, during the Advertising Research Foundation's (ARF) 2016 Re:Think Conference in New York.

More specifically, he provided several examples of how this research technique has been applied to analyse the National Collegiate Athletic Association's (NCAA) Men's Division I Basketball Tournament.

"We measured one game during the round of 64 on a Thursday night," he reported by way of illustration. (For more, including further details of this research program, read Warc's exclusive report: Turner uses neuroscience to track March Madness ROI.)

And a valuable finding from this exercise was that ad engagement ratings are not dictated by the closeness of the points tally. "One of the things that we learned is that the score is not the most important factor in terms of engagement," continued Leon.

Broader insights emerged as the neuro program measured the impact of TV spots featuring big names from the basketball world, and produced with March Madness in mind, versus more standard messaging.

"We went all the way down to very little customisation – just a standard ad, but with the blue disc NCAA logo tagged on the end [and the words], 'Official Partner of the NCAA.' And we also had corporate partners that didn't customise their ads at all," Leon reported.

And Turner's neuroscience program has revealed that customised ads typically yield stronger results for marketers.

Given the length of the competition, another area of focus has involved trying to ascertain whether there was a brand benefit from mixing up creative executions over time.

"When we drilled down, we saw, that all the spots that were repeated throughout the tournament [had] a higher score than those ads where the same advertiser swapped out with a different creative," said Leon.

Data sourced from Warc