The 2014 March Madness NCAA D-I basketball brackets for the men and women are now set. Teams are anxiously awaiting play. I love March Madness, but I am awaiting something different….word from Warren Buffet. I have tweeted Mr. Buffet (@WarrenBuffet) and Quicken (@quickenloans) to inquire if they were going to also offer a “perfect women’s bracket” contest, as they are offering a $$BILLION dollars$$ for a perfect men’s bracket. No reply.
It isn’t that I want two chances of winning a BILLION dollars (No one is going to win, the odds are 1 in 9 quintillion), it is the message being communicated by offering only a men’s bracket and who benefits from this “perfect bracket” challenge that is the problem.
Women’s sport and female athletes are continuously striving against minimal media coverage to be taken seriously and lauded for their athleticism (to go more in depth on this topic, watch a new documentary on “Media Coverage and Female Athletes”). By offering only a perfect men’s bracket challenge, Buffet & Co. are reinforcing the idea that men’s sport and male athletes are more talented, important, valued, and worthy.
Offering a perfect women’s bracket could of been a win-win and is a missed opportunity:
1. Quicken could have potentially garnered more new home loan clients (which is their goal!), and Buffet could of possibly made more profit (no one is sure exactly what his deal is with Quicken, but it isn’t $0!).
2. It would communicate in equal ways that women’s sport is and female athletes are worthy, valued, exciting and deserving.
3.It might have also inadvertently or directly increased interest in women’s basketball—especially in a demographic that is typically deemed “uninterested” (18-35 year old males).
Why does interest matter? “Lack of interest” by males, who are coveted by sport marketers and sport editors, is used as proof and proxy that “everyone” is uninterested in women’s sport–a statement that is completely false. Lack of interest is used as a reason for not promoting or covering women’s sport. Many people are very interested in women’s sport, and particularly women’s college basketball as evidenced by increasing attendance and steady ESPN viewership. Creating hype around the women’s bracket is a perfect way to generate interest, some of which would likely be sustained because “they” would watch and see that the women’s teams are also exciting and talented!
People love March Madness and love to fill out brackets. College basketball and brackets matter. Placing more value (literally) on the men’s bracket, communicates what and who is valued and worthy, as well as who and what is not.