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Why Do We Call It “March Madness”? A Branding Lesson

Posted on March 2nd, 2015 · By Integraphix · No Comments

The NCAA men’s basketball tournament opens soon, which means that brackets are going to filled out furiously, friends will become competitors, and a month of basketball bliss will commence. Oh, how wonderful the month of March is! Even at our Chicago graphic design agency, we get into the tournament’s excitement.

The tournament is branded as “March Madness” and is known across the country as the biggest event of the NCAA men’s basketball season. We also know the tournament by the nickname, “The Big Dance”. And of course, we know the various stages of the tournament by its names such as, “Sweet Sixteen”, “Elite Eight”, “Final Four”, and “The Final Championship”. Our Chicago logo design agency’s branding team went to find out where the name “March Madness” came from. 

The origins date back to the Illinois high school basketball state tournament, which began in 1908, and the name was solely used by the IHSA until 1982. The man who created the name was Henry Porter, who coined it in an article entitled, “March Madness” for IHSA’s in-house publication. Three years after this, he wrote a poem called, “Basketball Ides of March” that said, “… The Madness of March is running…”

So what happened in 1982? CBS broadcaster Brent Musburger used the term during his coverage of the NCAA tournament. It was seven years later when the IHSA would then trademark the name. Then, in 1996, the IHSA and NCAA had a battle in court over the usage of the name. The fight was against GTE, a partner of the NCAA, and their usage of the name on a CD-ROM that used the name, “March Madness”. Due to the NCAA’s common-law trademark, they got the ruling in their favor and the NCAA and IHSA formed the March Madness Athletic Association, which meant joint-custody of the name.

The NCAA had similar issues with the Kentucky High School Athletic Association in 1988 over the name, “Sweet Sixteen”. Of course, there are other leagues and individuals that insist the names like, “Final Four” were created by someone or something besides the NCAA.

Where did the name, “The Big Dance” come from? Well, that seems to have been lost in the depths of history. Regardless of where it started, the NCAA has trademarked the name and holds the trademark since 2000.

We have to admit, the branding and the marketing that goes on for the tournament is impressive. The NCAA has managed to turn this tournament into one of the biggest and most popular sporting events in the nation.

Does your business desire as great of marketing and branding as the tournament? Then email Integraphix and see what our creative marketing team can do for your business! 

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