The NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Championship will use March Madness marketing and branding beginning with the 2022 tournament, which culminates with the Women's Final Four on April 1-3 in Minneapolis.
That was one of the recommendations from a comprehensive external review of gender equity issues in connection with NCAA championships, including issues that arose during the 2021 Division I Men's and Women's Basketball Championships.
Details of how the March Madness brand will be incorporated into the Division I women's basketball tournament are still being developed.
"Women's basketball has grown tremendously over the past several years, and we remain focused on our priority of enhancing and growing the game," said Lynn Holzman, vice president of women's basketball. "The brand recognition that March Madness carries will broaden marketing opportunities as we continue that work to elevate the women's basketball championship."
Members of the Division I Women's Basketball Oversight Committee expressed their desire for substantial changes after the gender equity report on basketball championships was released Aug. 3.
The committee unanimously supported women's basketball adding the March Madness brand and sees this decision as one of the first steps to achieving greater equity between the women's and men's championships.
"This is just the start when it comes to improving gender equity in the way the two Division I basketball championships are conducted," said Lisa Campos, chair of the NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Oversight Committee and director of athletics at the University of Texas at San Antonio. "Adding the March Madness trademark to the Division I Women's Basketball Championship will enhance the development and public perception of the sport, and the oversight committee looks forward to its work to address other recommendations through the governance structure to continue those efforts."
The marketing and branding effort is one of many initiatives being evaluated to address gender inequity issues.
In another move, the NCAA national office has implemented a zero-based budgeting method for the two championships. Instead of adjusting budgets from the previous fiscal year, the men's and women's basketball championships staffs are starting from scratch in determining budgeting expenses, which must be justified and approved for each new period.
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.
The Men's and Women's Basketball Committees and Men's and Women's Basketball Oversight Committees also are conducting regular joint meetings to better collaborate and ensure alignment between the two championships. Additionally, the Division I Council in August assigned committees within the NCAA structure to evaluate recommendations from the gender equity report that fall under those committees' purview. Those membership-led committees meet regularly and have begun assessing the viability and practicality of implementing the recommendations.
Coverage of all rounds of the 2022 Division I Women's Basketball Championship will continue on the ESPN family of networks.