NCAA: (Some) closing of the gender gap

March 07, 2022
The GIST: On Friday, in an effort to clean up its act balance the scales, the NCAA publicly outlined its updates to the women’s basketball tournament. The changes are in light of last year’s showcase of sexism which prompted the organization to undergo a gender equity review.
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CARMEN MANDATO/GETTY IMAGES
CARMEN MANDATO/GETTY IMAGES

The GIST: On Friday, in an effort to clean up its act balance the scales, the NCAA publicly outlined its updates to the women’s basketball tournament. The changes are in light of last year’s showcase of sexism which prompted the organization to undergo a gender equity review.

The changes: As previously announced, this year’s women’s tournament will look more like the men’s. The field was expanded to 68 teams — up from 64 — and for the first time, the women’s tournament will use March Madness branding.

  • The NCAA is also providing identical swag bags and lounges for male and female athletes in direct response to last year’s criticism (thank you, Sedona Prince).
  • Venues will not change, though. Early rounds of the women’s tournament won’t be held in predetermined locations and the men’s and women’s Final Four won’t be hosted in the same city.

Zooming out: The March Madness branding provides more marketing opportunities — and the women’s tournament is already capitalizing on it. Buick will sponsor the Final Four’s “Party on the Plaza” and ESPN completely sold out its advertising inventory last month.

  • Marketing opportunities are increasing for female athletes, particularly in the name, image and likeness (NIL) era. For example, the Oregon Ducks just launched a first-of-its-kind marketplace where brands can directly court athletes.
  • But is the NCAA doing enough? The choice not to pick predetermined venues for early rounds doesn’t exactly create equal marketing opportunities — on-court branding won’t be as prominent for the women’s tournament.
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