Wheels, women, and watchability

The 2021–22 version of "March Madness," AKA NCAA Men's basketball, is swinging into its second week of action with the Sweet Sixteen teams competing to earn a spot in the Final Four and a chance to win the national championship.

For the schools, it's a revenue cash cow because teams or schools earn more money as they navigate their way farther into the tournament brackets.  For the players, it's an opportunity for more exposure and a potential professional career in the NBA or overseas.  For the coaches, it's another way to enrich their résumés and their wallets as they parade, prowl, and pout their game on the sidelines, pushing and encouraging their troops on a wooden battlefield.

The hype, the television exposure, and the billions of dollars the NCAA earns have turned this tournament, which began in 1939 with just eight schools competing, into a monster event that carries on for three weekends of late winter and early spring — hence the moniker and, of course, copyrighted term, "March Madness."  (Note: The NCAA never leaves money on the table.)

Commercials abound during the games.  While costs per second aren't as high as the Super Bowl, the price for posting an ad on CBS for the title game is still two million dollars.  That's small change compared to Super Bowl commercials, but it ain't pocket change, either.

One of the corporations that has been advertising is GM, particularly Buick.  The commercials highlight great moments in women's sports (such as swimming and ice hockey) that, unfortunately, don't have a national audience or even a local audience beyond the fans who actually attend the events.  The ad implies that this is unfair both to women and to women's sports.  Their exciting events aren't shown on TV, nor written about on websites or newspapers.  There are, it seems, inequity and bias in our system.

But inequity is not the problem.  The problem is the bottom line.

Image: Buick ad screen shot.

Money or the ability to earn revenue is just one byproduct of a capitalist economy and society.  Industries such as automobile manufacturers, beer companies, pizza and fast food franchises, and computer and technology corporations all exist because, through their ingenuity, inventiveness, and innovations, they provide products that people enjoy, purchase, and consume.

One way to promote a product is through advertising.  Marketeers are a strange lot: they like to make a lot of money by exposing their product to the largest audience by spending economically but at the same time growing their clientele.  They do this through science — data, research, demographics, and number-crunching.

Then they take their science; add in some creativity and, nowadays, some politically correct wokeness; and willingly risk buying commercial time on events that potentially reach the largest audience.

The marketing material in this ad campaign will mix images of Buick's various products with audio clips from historic plays in female college athletics. Instead of showing video footage, however, only sportscaster commentary will be played during the ads, emphasizing the fact that many people likely missed these sports highlights due to female athletics being less popular and less widely watched.

Unfortunately, Buick, by attempting to promote sex equality, appears to be missing the point of why women's niche sports (and some men's niche sports) remain that way: the audience just isn't there.

Television and other media exist only based upon the revenue they can realize.  They broadcast events, shows, newscasts, or other programs that interest the general public and, therefore, will generate money...

  • money that keeps them solvent
  • money that allows them to broadcast another day
  • money that makes them powerful, influential, and effective political communicators

Only when niche sports can establish a more mainstream audience with their games, heats, and matches will they be shown, reported, and broadcast in the same context and regularity as March Madness.

Here's an irony: Buick is promoting women's sports during the NCAA because more women than men purchase their product:

Molly Peck, Buick and GMC Marketing vice president, said the ad campaign is particularly appropriate for the Buick brand, as it has the highest percentage of female buyers in the entire auto industry.

Why isn't Buick doing more to attract the male purchaser?

Or is Buick just a niche automobile?

The author has had a few relatives play D1, D2, and D3; finds that all sports are exciting; and watched with joy as his nieces, nephews, and cousins competed in NCAA sports.

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