College Basketball

N.C.A.A. to Use ‘March Madness’ Slogan for Women’s Basketball, Too

The lucrative marketing slogan “March Madness,” long used by the N.C.A.A. to brand its Division I men’s college basketball tournament, will also be used next year to promote the top women’s tournament.

The change, announced Wednesday, was a response to widespread criticism that the N.C.A.A. had shortchanged its women’s tournament for years, building up a gender divide within college sports that hindered the growth of women’s basketball.

Inclusion of “March Madness” in the marketing of the Division I women’s tournament was one of the recommendations from an outside review of the N.C.A.A. championships that was prompted by complaints during the 2021 men’s and women’s tournaments.

The tournaments were played concurrently in restricted environments because of the coronavirus pandemic — the men played in and around Indianapolis, while the women’s tournament was centered in San Antonio. In most years, the first two rounds of the women’s tournament are played at the home arenas of the top teams, while the men play those rounds at neutral sites.

The report, released in August and prepared by the firm of the civil rights lawyer Roberta A. Kaplan, said:

“The NCAA’s broadcast agreements, corporate sponsorship contracts, distribution of revenue, organizational structure, and culture all prioritize Division I men’s basketball over everything else in ways that create, normalize, and perpetuate gender inequities. At the same time, the NCAA does not have structures or systems in place to identify, prevent, or address those inequities.”

The use of the term “March Madness” has long been one of the most visible differences between the men’s and women’s tournaments, both for its use on CBS broadcasts during men’s tournament games and its presence on the N.C.A.A.’s website and social media platforms to describe only men’s games. (The women’s basketball tournament is televised by ESPN.)

David Worlock, the N.C.A.A.’s director of media coordination for the men’s basketball tournament, said the association hopes to create a “March Madness” logo for the women’s tournament that is similar to the logo for the men’s tournament but with distinctions so that it is easy for fans to identify each tournament as they are promoted.

Worlock acknowledged that the branding change was made in response to the gender equity report, and said the N.C.A.A. and its staff are “looking at all those different factors that were raised in the report.”

A $600 million dip in revenue because of the cancellation of the men’s tournament in 2020, the report said, prompted N.C.A.A. officials to focus to heavily on how the men’s tournament would rebound, to the detriment of the women’s tournament.

Sedona Prince of Oregon started a wave of criticism about the inequities between the tournaments when she complained about the sparse weight lifting equipment in Texas, comparing the offerings with what was provided for the men.

Investigators also found differences between the tournaments in the quality of food, lounges and even gift bags provided to the players.

Following the public scrutiny, N.C.A.A. officials apologized for its missteps, and its president, Mark Emmert, later acknowledged that it had also used cheaper, less reliable coronavirus tests for the women’s tournament.

The N.C.A.A. said that it also planned to change how the tournaments are financed. Instead of working from budgets from previous years, the men’s and women’s basketball staffs will start from scratch in determining expenses for approval each year. The N.C.A.A. said it hoped the move would address differences in the allocation of funds and make the two championships more “financially equitable.”

In March, the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association — made up of top coaches in women’s college basketball — met with N.C.A.A. executives to address the way the association promotes women’s basketball. Danielle Donehew, the organization’s executive director, said in an email that the “March Madness” brand was among many concerns the organization raised to the N.C.A.A. then.

“This is a great first step in uniting the N.C.A.A. women’s and men’s basketball championships under a powerful and exciting brand,” Donehew said.

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