By Zac Cornell
The NCAA announced that the lucrative “March Madness” brand would now be used for both the men’s and women’s basketball tournaments. Although few details were provided, the move is an important, significant development for women’s NCAA basketball, and the result of an external review of the gender inequities exposed at the 2021 NCAA women’s tournament. The logo will be slightly different for the two tournaments with orange accents on the women’s March Madness logo and gray on the men’s.
Social media images showing the pathetic weight training facilities and food offered to women’s NCAA players compared to what the NCAA men’s players received went viral at the 2021 event, prompting societal uproar and revealing uncomfortable truths about financial disparities between men’s and women’s sports. The NCAA made the situation worse when they falsely claimed that the women’s NCAA had opted to pursue their own branding efforts instead of adopting the “March Madness” branding, one of the most powerful in sports. The NCAA hired the law firm Kaplan Kecker & Fink LLP to conduct a review. Their report found the NCAA “prioritizes Division I men’s basketball over everything else in ways that create, normalize, and perpetuate gender inequities.”
The “March Madness” brand generates approximately $1 billion in revenue per year, and the belief is that the value and prominence of NCAA women’s basketball will grow with the association. Lynn Holzman, NCAA vice president of women’s basketball told The Wall Street Journal, “The brand recognition that March Madness carries will broaden marketing opportunities as we continue that work to elevate the women’s basketball championship.”
This is a good first step of many needed to bring gender equity to NCAA men’s and women’s sports.