The NCAA announced on Wednesday that, beginning in 2022, the Division I women’s basketball tournament will use “March Madness” branding. The NCAA had previously restricted the use of “March Madness” branding so that the phrase and logo could only be used in relation to the men’s tournament.
This branding disparity was on full display during the 2021 NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournaments. While the “March Madness” logo was plastered across every court used for the men’s tournament in Indiana, many early rounds of the 2021 women’s tournament in Texas were played on courts that lacked official branding of any kind.
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To add insult to injury, the women’s venues that did feature special branding said only “Women’s Basketball.” That gendered phrase was especially problematic given that the word “men’s” was absent from all branding and logos related to the men’s tournament.
In Indiana, all of the men's courts appear to have official #MarchMadness branding.
Meanwhile in Texas… most of the women's courts have no official #ncaaW branding.
— Alex Azzi (@AlexAzziNBC) March 21, 2021
In March, the Wall Street Journal reported that, while the NCAA’s trademark registrations for the phrase “March Madness” allowed it to be used for both the men’s and women’s tournaments, the NCAA had made a choice not to extend the branding to the women’s tournament. As a result, the women’s tournament was denied a valuable marketing asset that could have been used to further its growth and profitability.
Today’s announcement came after an external review of gender equity issues within the NCAA, which was sparked by the multiple examples of gender discrimination on display at the 2021 men’s and women’s basketball tournaments.
The NCAA press release did not include details of how “March Madness” branding will be applied to the women’s tournament, or whether the women’s tournament will have access to phrases like “The Big Dance” or “Sweet 16.” During the 2021 tournaments, men’s courts were rebuilt between rounds to include updated branding specific to the current phase of competition, while women’s courts were not.
In addition to the branding change, the NCAA said on Wednesday it is implementing “a zero-based budgeting method for the two championships.”
Moving forward, both the men’s and women’s NCAA Division I basketball tournaments will determine their budget from scratch, rather than adjusting expenses from the previous year’s tournament. According to the NCAA press release, “The move is designed to show where justifiable differences in the allocation of championship financial resources exist and are appropriate, with an eye toward increasing opportunities for planning collaboration and cross-promotion, as well as making the two championships more financially equitable.”
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