Six of the Best: Madness in March edition ~ Brand Mix

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Six of the Best: Madness in March edition

Photo: My Bracket by GoonSquadSarah (Flickr)

The NCAA Men's Division 1 Basketball Championship is underway. The official title is a bit of a mouthful and that's why the championship is nicknamed March Madness. And that's where the trouble starts:

1) Why Is It Called "March Madness"? Slate (via Fritinancy)
Brendan Koerner traces the origins of the usage of March Madness. Turns out it was first used in a 1939 article by Henry V. Porter, an official with the Illinois High School Association (IHSA), describing the Illinois statewide high-school basketball tournament. Then, in 1982, Brent Musburger used the term while covering the NCAA championship. Eventually there was a legal showdown between the IHSA and NCAA with the NCAA claiming that it had common-law trademark on the phrase. The NCAA won that case but more litigation seemed likely so, instead, the two sides came together to form the March Madness Athletic Association, a joint holding company. This gives the NCAA a perpetual license to use the phrase in connection with its tournament.

2) March Madness: The do’s and don’ts: The
As the championship has become bigger and bigger, more and more companies have tried to find ways to associate with it. But, as Jeffry Pilcher warns in this post, there's a right way and a wrong way to do this. The wrong way is to use the term March Madness in promotions if you're not an approved, official sponsor. The NCAA looks for violations and, when it finds them, will sue and will win. Jeffry shows examples of financial companies who have done it the right way, capturing the spirit of the tournament to promote their businesses without violating the trademark.

3) College athletes' score doesn't add up: Marketplace
Here's where the boot is on the other foot. Jon Wertheim visits the age-old question of whether college athletes should be paid, focusing on a class action suit that has been filed on behalf of former Division 1 football and basketball players who allege the NCAA has violated their rights. The suit was triggered when UCLA star Ed O' Bannon saw that he was also the star of the NCAA Basketball video game. The NCAA can use March Madness in perpetuity--the case will determine if it also has the right to use an athletes' images in perpetuity free-of-charge.

Since the term March Madness is off limits, the brackets have emerged as the associative vehicle of choice. Some examples:

4) Bank Merger Madness: FirstBank (via The

Of the examples that Jeffry shared in his post, I liked this one the best. The copy: “Independently owned since 1963” is a nice reminder of its independent status in a time of heavy M&A activity. Ad from TDA Advertising & Design.

5) Fug Madness 2010: Printable Bracket and Play-In Contestants: go fug yourself
Jessica Simpson easily beat her sister in the play-in game and the Fug Madness tournament is now underway. Last year's winner Aubrey O'Day is not expected to repeat having had a quiet and relatively boring year. It may end up being an all-pop Lady Gaga v. Rihanna battle for the crown. What is Fug? You'll need to click to find out.

6) Who Will Be the Next Mingo? Name of the Year (via Fritinancy)
Another bracket. This one for name of the year. Last year's winner was: Barvkevious Mingo, an LSU defensive end. Will this year's winner be: Furious Bradley, Spartacus Bernstein, Hanukkah Wallace or one of the many others? We don't know yet because they haven't got the bracket posted. Hurry up!

That's it! Back soon with more stories from the world of brand strategy (and vaguely related areas). More thoughts and comments also available on Twitter (@martinjbishop).

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