Yesterday I had the privilege of attending Day 1 of the CIAA men's basketball tournament, held at the Bobcats Arena in Charlotte, NC. The CIAA is the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association, a U.S. athletic conference competing in Division II Athletics. The conference is primarily comprised of African-American athletes and makes for one of the largest multicultural sporting events in the United States. With this being said, the CIAA Men's Basketball Tournament ranks high on the priority list for corporate sponsors looking to target the African-American populous.
I wanted to share a quick sponsorship rundown of sponsorship presence and "best practices" from the day in case you are looking to develop a campaign that solely targets African-Americans and/or would like to know who is also actively spending in this space. The day's action was put on by Urban Entertainment.
Here is a brief recap from yesterday's (2.28.08) action:
Lowe's - Thursday marked "Lowe's Day at Soulabration" and Lowe's branding was featured throughout the arena. Branding elements included: LED signage, Courtside rotational (which was frozen on Lowe's for pre-game/halftime/post-game), "Lowe's Day at Soulabration" messaging on the scoreboard throughout the game, in-game promotions - Lowe's Launch (t-shirt launcher with Kobalt Tools gun), branded replays, t-shirt toss from team cheerleaders, etc. Lowe's was featured everywhere.
McDonalds - McDonalds featured the in-game fan interaction but failed to deliver on its branding in-arena. At halftime of the first game, McDonalds featured a dance-off between the two (2) competing teams' cheerleaders and mascots, hosted by a ghetto Ronald McDonald, and demonstrated acrobatic dunking during the second game's intermission period. Both features were well received by fans and left lasting impressions. However, McDonalds failed from a branding standpoint. The company's courtside rotational signage was very hard to see and its marketing message was nothing short of "interesting" - "Deeply rooted in the community 365 days a year. 365Black.com". I would love to see the results of McDonald's 365Black.com as the website moniker doesn't have any ties to the brand. McDonalds also had courtside chairback branding, distributed t-shirts in-arena, and featured LED signage synched with courtside rotational messaging.
Coca Cola - Coca Cola featured some of the best courtside rotational signage (clear, crisp messaging split between Coca-Cola (red) on one side and Coke Zero (black) on the other). Coke also had branded messaging on the floor-sweepers, an Upper Level Display, and courtside chairbacks.
Alltel - Alltel's main activation was a text message promotion, offering fans $100 if they could be the tenth person to text in the right answer to a CIAA trivia question (featured twice per game). The company also had t-shirt distribution at the gate and some courtside rotational signage with synched LED messaging.
Ford - Ford is the title sponsor of the Soulabration Experience, being held at the Charlotte Convention Center. Concerts with high-profile artists and many supporting companies are activating at this venue. In-arena, Ford had a Ford Focus Display at the main entrance (with a sweeps raffling off one (1) vehicle), and had automobiles displayed throughout the concourse level. Ford had LED branding which tied in its Vehicle Safety messaging when teams were on Defense. The company also had some limited courtside rotational signage.
Geico - Geico has some of the best courtside rotational signage (clear, visible, great color contrast). The company also sponsored a Geico Trike Race (where fans bicycle down court and shoot a layup for a prize), distributed t-shirts, and relayed its messaging through LED signage and PA's.
Bank of America - Featured minimal signage in-arena (LED, Courtside Rotational) but had a nice display at the Ford Fan Experience. BofA's exclusivity blocked Wachovia out of activating in its backyard.
Colgate - Sponsored the Kiss Cam (a great-sponsor tie-in), and featured a terrible in-game shooting promotion (four spots on the floor C,I,A,A - fans were not engaged, branding could not be seen on t-shirts of recipients) that had no sponsor tie-in.
Time Warner Cable - TWC had courtside rotational signage and featured very distracting LED messaging (continuous flashing of colors, etc.). The company's road runner LED messaging and communications was very interruptive (although it did get my attention).
Other Sponsors In-Arena
Best Buy - Best Buy featured an Upper Level Display
Russell - Russell was the uniform provider of the teams; the company featured limited courtside rotational and LED signage in-game.
NC Lottery - The NC Lottery featured courtside rotational signage and "The Best Seats in the House", located courtside in a corner of the court (I missed how the persons seated in this section were awarded).
Bud Light - featured minimal tunnel signage (BL is a sponsor of the Bobcats and it looked like this signage was just left up)
Marines - Featured minimal courtside rotational signage
ESPN Classic - The games were featured on ESPN classic; the channel had minimal courtside rotational and LED branding
Ebony - Had great courtside rotational branding (clear, visible) but lacked additional messaging
National Education Association - Featured minimal LED signage
Navy - Featured minimal LED and courtside rotational branding
Sprite - Sprite had minimal Upper LED branding and corner scoreboard visibility - both elements seemed locked in from Sprite's relationship with the Bobcats organization
Club Vue - Club Vue had its permanent Club Vue (The Urban Community) section branding
Kia - signage under the scoreboard, facing down on the court (KIA is a sponsor of the Bobcats and it looked like this signage was just left up - however, I would have thought that Ford had exclusivity and wouldn't want this)
Presbyterian Hospital - Featured minimal Upper LED branding