Survey: Racket over Madness brackets

Thinking of jumping into the March Madness office pool this year? You’re not alone.

Nearly 60 percent of respondents to an MSN online survey answered affirmatively on planning to fill out a bracket, predicting which teams will win games in the popular NCAA Tournament. Not all of them will put money on the line, joining friends and co-workers in such online games as the FOX Sports Bracket Challenge on MSN. But the majority of the national random sampling said they will play, and nearly a third of the respondents admitted to filling out multiple brackets.

Results in the random sample of 1,003 men and women 18 and older did nothing to dispute past surveys that found more than 50 million Americans participate in March Madness office pools, leading to estimated annual losses of $2 billion when considering employee productivity in the workplace as games are under way.

The MSN survey, taken in February, underscored the workplace-productivity issue. Only 14 percent of the respondents said they don’t follow the tournament to any extent during work hours. The other 86 percent confessed to one or more of three hoops-following activities: Reading, watching and checking stats online (57 percent); talking to co-workers about their brackets (52 percent); and checking scores on their mobile phone (43 percent).

The 86 percent saying they’ll devote at least some time during their work day to tracking the games is a 5 percent increase from the same survey question a year ago.

The popularity of the annual 68-team, one-loss-and-your-season-is-over tourney is indisputable. Only 4 percent of survey respondents said the statement “I don’t see the big deal; I won’t be viewing/participating” best described their March Madness viewing and pool-playing habits. Meanwhile, 35 percent put themselves in the “I eat, breathe and sleep March Madness” category, and 61 percent admitted to being involved for the socializing that comes with watching games and being part of a bracket pool.

The continuing struggling economy had an effect on survey respondents. This year 68 percent said they would spend nothing or up to only $10 in a bracket pool. That’s twice as large as last year’s 34 percent saying they would limit themselves to $10 if they paid into a money pool at all. Meanwhile, while 8 percent of respondents said they’ll spend more than $100 on bracket pools, a whopping 42 percent said they wouldn’t spend even a dime.

Among other top survey results:

  • In 2011, more than half of survey respondents (58 percent) said they will enter two or more betting pools. This year, only 31 percent said they would do the same.

  • Another sign of the economic times? A third of people believe their March Madness bet will offer a better return than their 401(k)!

  • Don’t expect to hear from your colleagues or boss in a timely manner when the games are on, as more than half (56 percent) plan to dedicate at least one hour of work during the first two full days of the tourney watching games or following scores, with 11 percent saying they will do the same for at least five hours and 6 percent saying they take the first two days of the tourney off of work.

  • Kentucky fan Ashley Judd is, for the second straight year, the most desired courtside companion when respondents are given a choice of sitting with celebrity March Madness fans Matthew McConaughey, Condoleezza Rice, Paul Rudd, Barack and Michelle Obama, Ashton Kutcher, and Judd. The majority of respondents (42 percent) stated a preference for Judd, with the Obamas a distant second at 23 percent. Men were 47 percent for Judd, with women favoring the President and First Lady (28 percent) over McConaughey (22 percent). Kutcher got the lowest vote total at 6 percent.