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Utah sees economic benefit as Runnin’ Utes advance to Sweet 16

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By Matt McDonald

SALT LAKE CITY -- With the University of Utah Runnin' Utes making a run to the Sweet 16, there's more on the line than just success on the basketball court.

"It's basically free sponsorship for the state of Utah," said Teresa Moreno, an account manager with Salt Lake City advertising agency Richter 7.

She puts the value of seeing the Utes on national TV and mentioned in publications across the country covering March Madness in the millions.

Visit Salt Lake, a part of the Governor's Office for Economic Development, has seen an increase in social media interactions.

"It's such good exposure, additional exposure for all things Salt Lake," said Shawn Stinson, the Director of Communications for Visit Salt Lake. "The possible ad value of playing in a national, international tournament that this is just brings such great exposure."

The University is also seeing a bump. Season ticket sales for next year are up.

"It's probably the best marketing that we could ever buy," said Steve Smith, U of U Athletic Department Chief Financial Officer.

The university gets roughly $15,000 to $20,000 a year for the next six years for every game the Utes, or any other Pac-12 team, plays during the NCAA Tournament. The success is paying off in other ways as well.

"Our ticket sales were about $2.5 million this year for basketball, we budgeted about $1.8 million," Smith said.

He attributes the extra $700,000 this year in basketball ticket sales alone simply to the team's success.