The NCAA men’s basketball tournament is in full swing, meaning the fervent fanfare of March Madness is everywhere.
As students on dozens of college campuses across the country eagerly look forward to watching their respective basketball teams progress (or flounder) in the tournament, fans across the country remain glued to their televisions. March Madness has increasingly become an important cultural event, as indicative of the onset of spring as pollen allergies.
USA Today recently reported this week that many urological clinics offer men special promotions for vasectomies in the month of March to coincide with the basketball hype, marketing campaigns which might include bonus throw-ins such as “recovery kits” or pizza.
Doctors at the Cleveland Clinic affirm that it is a business strategy that is working: the number of vasectomies increases during March Madness as many men are scheduling their procedures in order to recover for a few days in front of the TV.
Even outside of this (rather unusual) demographic, March Madness is a significant event: Bloomberg Businessweek reports that around 58 million Americans complete tournament brackets annually, which translates to about 18.5% of the total population.
Perhaps as a result of the cash at stake, one of the side effects of March Madness is a negative effect upon work performance, as many employees neglect their work in order to check game scores and carefully monitor their brackets.
This practice has been made even easier in recent years with the creation of a wide variety of March Madness apps.
The tournament’s influence seems to be infectious, and has made its way past sports and into the political arena: President Obama’s Final Four picks have made the news, and his attendance at a “First Four” game with British Prime Minister David Cameron was referred to as a “man date” by the Los Angeles Times.
Even elementary school students are trying to cash in on their brackets – a fifth grader was recently sent to the principal’s office for organizing a bracket pool, entry into which cost $5.
March Madness certainly represents a huge marketing opportunity and has become an expensive advertising strategy, with television commercial slots second in cost to only the Super Bowl.
Despite the tournament’s visibility, some argue that March Madness is neither as lucrative nor as popular as it seems to be. Research from the College of the Holy Cross shows that the men’s Final Four host cities experience negligible economic impact.
Rick Eckstein, sociology professor at Villanova University, contends that a lot of March Madness might just be hype: “There is a lot of cultural pressure to ‘act out’ during certain key sporting spectacles. Usually this means buying certain products (often food) and treating the sporting event as another commodity to be consumed in excess.”
He says that this cultural pressure is derived from sources as diverse as the media, the workplace, religious institutions and schools. “Keep in mind, though, that for all of this attention paid to March Madness, a lot of people simply don’t care about it at all,” Eckstein says. “However, the barrage of cultural images exaggerates the overall social appeal of this sports spectacle.”
So whether you’re among the 18.5% eagerly filling out their brackets or among the 81.5% who choose not to, it seems that the craziness that is the NCAA basketball tournament is becoming deeply ingrained in American society.
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