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Posted on Wed, Apr 3, 2013 : 5:58 a.m.

Michigan's Final Four appearance providing a boost to Ann Arbor businesses

By Ben Freed


For the first time in 20 years, The M Den's display is dominated by a Michigan basketball team's run to the Final Four.

Daniel Brenner |

The University of Michigan basketball team’s journey to the Final Four has been a source of pride for the school, a source of joy for students and fans and a source of increased income for a number of Ann Arbor businesses.

“If they had lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament versus them making it to the Final Four… Wow,” Underground Printing co-founder Ryan Gregg said.

“Our sales in the last 48 hours have probably been 1,000 times higher than they would have been otherwise, it’s that much more significant than a non-event weekend.”

Gregg explained that Michigan’s wins over Kansas and Florida triggered what his team calls a “hot market.”

“The theory is that the best market for something this significant exists for 24 hours, so you want to print a lot to make sure you’re stocked up for Sunday and Monday,” he said. “We see the same thing for different events like Red Wings championships, the Super Bowl happening locally and other major events.”

Scott Hirth, president of The M Den, said Michigan reaching college basketball’s final weekend of the year was comparing favorably to another local team’s recent successes.

“Out of the gate, it seems like it could generate even more business than the early days after the Sugar Bowl announcement last year,” he said. “This is like having another bowl game for us, it’s huge.”

Hirth said his store did a month's worth of sales on Sunday following Michigan’s win over the Florida Gators, with the bulk of the sales coming from a few hot items.

“The regional championship T-shirts and the hats they were wearing on the court when they cut down the net, those are the most popular by far,” he said.

“And then the Adidas shirt that says ‘leaving it all on the floor,’ highlighting the letters ATL. The team was seen afterwards wearing those shirts and they are going like crazy. And of course, anything to do with Trey [Burke] has been a great seller.”

Stores specializing in Michigan apparel will have to battle with big box stores as they use large-scale purchasing power to sell Final Four gear at lower prices. Meijer is offering a Final Four branded T-shirt for $16, less than the least expensive shirts available from UGP or M Den.

The University of Michigan also will benefit handsomely from the deep tournament run. Licensing director Kristen Ablauf said that the department closed its quarter on March 31, so it is still too soon to measure the royalties from increased apparel sales.

Ablauf said that Michigan also makes money off of Final Four items with multiple logos, but those royalties are split with the NCAA and other teams whose logos appear.

Michigan winning also is good for the Big Ten’s bottom line. According to ESPN business reporter Daren Rovell, the NCAA pays teams $1.47 million for each game a school plays in the tournament, up to the final game, but that money is usually divided evenly between conference members. Michigan has played four games so far and will take on Syracuse on Saturday (8:49 p.m., CBS) with the winner advancing to Monday's final (9:23 p.m., CBS) to play the winner of Saturday's Louisville vs. Wichita State semifinal (6:09 p.m., CBS).

Other Ann Arbor businesses have jumped on the Michigan basketball bandwagon, showing support for the team through advertisements and promotions.


Market Loco attempted to use both U-M's success and April Fools day to increase their brand awareness. Some are describing their promotion as a cruel prank.

From Facebook

One local promotion that received a mixed response was the “Two Free Tickets” contest launched by student startup Market Loco on Facebook. Co-founder David Fontentot said the promotion, which required Facebook users to share a photo and like the Market Loco Facebook page, promised that 25 winners would be picked who would each win two free tickets each to the Final Four in Atlanta.

The catch was that the promotion, which was posted at 9:30 p.m. on April 1, was the founders’ attempt at an “April Fools” joke. Fontenot said that his company paid just $10 to promote the post, which was seen by more than 400,000 Facebook users.

“We’ve multiplied the likes on our page by five times,” he said. “I think it’s pretty fair to say we won April Fools.”

Other Facebook users don’t seem as amused. A torrent of negative comments steadily streamed onto Market Loco’s page and the company lost nearly 500 likes in the hour after it revealed the prank at approximately 5:00 p.m. Tuesday.

It’s likely that the Bank of Ann Arbor’s basketball themed advertising will be better received. The bank replaced all of its existing billboards Wednesday with special messages relating to the Wolverines' success. New billboard messages include “Non-local bankers thought U-M wouldn’t make it to Atlanta,” “Hail to the hoopsters valiant" and "UnBeileinable."

Ben Freed covers business for You can sign up here to receive Business Review updates every week. Reach out to Ben at 734-623-2528 or email him at Follow him on twitter @BFreedinA2



Sat, Jul 13, 2013 : 9:40 p.m.

Nice, now let's stick with the English language shall we.


Wed, Apr 3, 2013 : 2:59 p.m.

Anyone know where can I purchase a "Free the Fab Five" T-shirt Tim Hardaway was wearing around campus?

Ed Kimball

Wed, Apr 3, 2013 : 2:15 p.m.

Kudos to Bank of Ann Arbor and their clever ads, quickly posted.

Ben Freed

Wed, Apr 3, 2013 : 2:04 p.m.

Have you already bought your Final Four swag? Waiting to see if the team wins it all?


Wed, Apr 3, 2013 : 11:49 a.m.

Re: the Market Loco comment "I think it's pretty fair to say we won April Fools." I think it's pretty fair to say the final score hasn't been tallied yet.


Wed, Apr 3, 2013 : 10:46 a.m.

this should give the boosters an opportunity to pay some of those players quitewell


Wed, Apr 3, 2013 : 10:22 a.m.

I suspect Market Loco will see a few lawsuits come out of this....

Ben Freed

Wed, Apr 3, 2013 : 1:38 p.m.

I doubt there will be any lawsuits, but they could get some blowback from potential future users.