May 18, 2011

Method to the Madness

College basketball season might be over but for the NCAA, March Madness is just beginning.

Last October, the NCAA secured exclusive rights to the term “March Madness” from sports and entertainment marketer Intersport. Many in college athletics weren’t even aware of the eight-figure settlement until  USA TODAY reported the news in May.

According to USA TODAY, Intersport had retained usage rights to “March Madness” through an agreement with the Illinois High School Association in the early ’90s. The IHSA and NCAA once shared the trademark. The IHSA gave up its ownership several years ago, but still kept use of the term in connection with high school basketball championships. However the NCAA considered any other use “detrimental to the trademark.”

When asked if $17 million-plus may was too hefty a price tag, Randall Scott–Senior Vice President at Addison Whitney–questioned if an equally profitable alternative name even existed for the basketball tournament.  “If you called it something else, would it have the same cachet and familiarity?” he asked.

USA TODAY reports that CBS and Turner are paying $10.8 billion over 14 years to carry the the Division I men’s basketball tournament, making it NCAA’s most critical source of income.

“Is it worth it?” Scott asked. “Absolutely. The real question is if $17 million was the right number.”

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