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How Dos Equis’ Basketball Tournament Is Following in Hulk Hogan’s Footsteps

With Mall of America as a strong host venue, the Dos Equis 3X3U National Championship hopes to continue growing in its second year.

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Photo credit: Intersport

Building on a strong first year, the Dos Equis 3X3U National Championship will head to the Mall of America this season.

A strong first event on the court has led to exciting expectations heading into year two. The Dos Equis 3X3U National Championship, set for April 5-7, takes the best four-year collegiate players not playing in the NCAA Tournament Final Four and places them on conference teams.

The Final Four is in Minneapolis this year at U.S. Bank Stadium. Meanwhile, the Intersport team had planned on following last year’s path of holding the 3X3 tournament in a small college in the Final Four host city, but instead settled on the Mall of America. It’s the second televised sporting event held at the mall, the other being a WCW Monday Nitro event in 1995.

Intersport Executive Vice President Drew Russell said it feels good to follow in Hulk Hogan’s footsteps.

“We recognize the unique nature of the Dos Equis 3X3U National Championship, and knew it needed a one-of-a-kind venue to serve as host here in the Twin Cities,” said Jill Renslow, senior vice president of marketing and business development at Mall of America.

“The energy that lives within Mall of America every day will be amplified by the enthusiasm and passion of not only these players, but also the countless basketball fans who will be visiting during that time. We’re excited to have a front-row seat to this year’s action and bring another exceptional event to Mall of America.”

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Russell said the host venue is generating a lot of buzz and will provide an amazing setting with four stories above the court. Russell said last year’s tournament in San Antonio at Saint Mary’s offered exciting action with two games at once. Now with a true half-court environment, the crowd and viewers will be focused on one game.

“We will stream longer,” Russell said. “You won’t miss any action because we won’t have competing courts going on at the same time. I liked the chaotic nature of two games, but it will be special for what this setting provides.”

The tournament has Twitter and ESPN as broadcast partners, and Russell said the hope is to continue offering a different look with the broadcast team of Kyle Montgomery, Robbie Hummel, Tate Frazier and Mark Titus.

“We wanted to create the anti-traditional college broadcast,” he said. “It’s about the players who poured blood, sweat and tears in their collegiate careers — and now is the one last opportunity to put them on a national stage and expose them to a unique way to play a game that’s growing.”

Beyond the broadcast partners, Russell said the brand sponsorship partners started strong with Dos Equis, which bought in right away. The beer brand brought along Hooters in year two, which coincidentally has its only Minneapolis location in the Mall of America.

“It’s a proven fact that nothing goes better with three-on-three basketball than a cold beer, so we’re excited to be back headlining the Dos Equis 3X3U National Championship again this year,” said Quinn Kilbury, head of partnerships and consumer experience at Heineken USA. “While last year’s event was off the charts in excitement, this year we’re bringing a huge dose of ‘interesante’ in the form of literal mountains of cash for our winners.”

Also sponsoring this year is Old El Paso, a brand in the portfolio of Minnesota-based General Mills. Along with Rocket Mortgage, Russell said the tournament is still looking for another couple brand partnerships.

“The event offers so many unique partnership opportunities,” he said.

READ MORE: DC United’s Broadcast Deal Could Further Demonstrate Digital Media Potential

Also growing is the three-day tournament’s prize money, with $100,000 up for grabs for the championship team of four players, up from $50,000 last year. Additionally, $1,000 installments will be awarded during pool play.

Half the field of 32 teams will make the playoff rounds, doubling last year’s eight teams advancing beyond pool play. A team made up of Big Ten seniors captured the title last year.

The 3-on-3 format is an exciting game and Russell said he hopes more people will be exposed to it this year, especially as the sport gears up for its inaugural appearance at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. The winner of this tournament receives an exemption into the U.S. Championships.

“We look for opportunities to provide these student-athletes that have been loyal to their universities and understand three-on-three is a career path and in 2020 could be representing the U.S. in Tokyo,” Russell said. “It’s a unique form of the sport; you can’t not appreciate the athleticism and skill level in the fast-paced 10-minute fashion.”

Pat Evans is a writer based in Las Vegas, focusing on sports business, food, and beverage. He graduated from Michigan State University in 2012. He's written two books: Grand Rapids Beer and Nevada Beer. Evans can be reached at pat@frntofficesport.com.

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Warriors Surprise Nearly 20,000 Fans with Google Home Minis

In partnership with Google Nest, the Golden State Warriors gave Google Home Minis to every fan in attendance of Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals.

Bailey Knecht

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Photo Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

When 19,596 fans entered Oracle Arena for the NBA Western Conference Finals on Tuesday night, they were expecting an energetic atmosphere and high-level basketball. What they didn’t expect was that they would all be leaving with a new Google Home Mini smart speaker.

It seemed like a routine on-court contest as part of the Warriors’ partnership with home technology brand Google Nest: a fan was selected to shoot a halfcourt shot, and if the shot went in, every fan would take home a Google Home Mini. The fans didn’t know that even if the fan missed—which he did—they would still get to take home the prize.

“What makes the Warriors so special is their dedicated fanbase, so how can we thank the fans for making wherever the team plays feel more like home?” said Kate Whittington, a partner marketing manager with Google. “That was the objective: thank fans for being awesome, for feeling like home to the team, and to provide them with help for their own homes.”

READ MORE: St. Louis Blues Gamify Western Conference Finals with ‘Enter the Zone’

The giveaway was the largest and most expensive sporting event giveaway of a Google product in history, and it was the Warriors’ first major tech giveaway. With 20,000 Google Home Minis to transport and distribute, carrying out the activation and keeping it under wraps was no easy task.

“We have pallets and pallets and pallets of these things that are extremely expensive,” said Mike Kitts, VP of partnerships for the Warriors. “There’s a level of security and mobilization, and then we have to actually unpack and get them into position for distribution. When we talk about this being the most valuable giveaway ever done, there’s reasons for that. Finding a partner that can execute this—it’s not as easy as putting t-shirts on the back of seats.”

The Warriors were the favorites to reach the conference finals, but their first two playoff series wins didn’t come easily. Although the activation was planned in advance, the execution was not guaranteed until last Friday when the Warriors advanced past the Rockets in Game 6 of the conference semifinals.

“The difficulty of it is to try to plan for a future that is not promised,” Kitts said. “You’re playing in a series, and you can’t get ahead of yourself to assume you’re playing, but you have to appropriately plan the next round…The nature and scale of the platform of the Western Conference Finals provides enhanced amplification here.”

For Google Nest, timing was equally as important. Until recently, Google and Nest were separate brands, but the two organizations joined forces last week in a major rebrand.

“It coincided with the Western Conference Finals, so we wanted to lean into this moment to broadcast the new brand and show some love for our local sports team,” said Whittington.

READ MORE: Dodgers Continue Community Connection with Mexican Heritage Night

The Google Home Mini sells for $29, and although Whittington declined to disclose the exact dollar amount required to provide carry out the giveaway, she called the activation “an investment that indicates the level of importance the Warriors play with us.”

Beyond the giveaway itself, the Warriors and Google Nest spent the evening educating fans on ways they can put their device to use. The fan experience team showed off Google Assistant smart home capabilities in the arena, calling out commands to dim the lights and play music.

“Throughout the game, we’re demonstrating Google technology through the game experience,” Kitts said. “We’re queuing up fan experiences until the big moment so that each person gets the narrative that threads through this, and sees how authentically that Google is layered into the game-day experience.”

Even after the fans left the arena, the Warriors’ marketing efforts weren’t complete.

“With any good activation, we’re looking for the follow-through with shelf life,” Kitts said, explaining that when fans activated their Google Home Minis, they were automatically entered to win tickets to a future Warriors game.

The activation didn’t come about spontaneously. The Warriors’ relationship with Google represents the team’s prime location in the tech capital of the country, according to Kitts.

“We’re very lucky to be in this region of the world,” he said. “I would say the ownership group is reflective of this region, and it manifests itself in the overall culture and willingness and ability to partner with tech companies that we’re proud of.”

And with Tuesday’s giveaway, the Warriors and Google Nest took that cutting-edge culture and turned it into an unforgettable moment for fans.

“We’re all consumers, we’re all experience goers, so we’ve been to a ton of arenas and seen advertising—that’s not what this is,” Kitts said. “This is two brands coming together to think through, ‘How do we change the game-day experience and make it additive and cool and make fans remember and appreciate it?’”

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Oakland Coliseum Scores Naming Rights Partner

Per the San Francisco Chronicle, The Coliseum will now be known as the RingCentral Coliseum thanks to a new three-year, $3 million deal.

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*This piece first appeared in the Front Office Sports Newsletter. Subscribe today and get the news before anyone else. 

The Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum is set to have a new name.

Thanks to a three-year, $3 million deal, the Coliseum will now be known as the RingCentral Coliseum, according to Phil Matier of the San Francisco Chronicle

What do you need to know?

1. The deal is for three years with an option for a fourth year.

2. The Coliseum has been without a naming rights partner since Overstock.com pulled out of its $1.45 million-a-year deal with the Coliseum after the Raiders announced plans in 2016 to leave.

3. The $1 million-a-year deal represents a discount from the old one based on the fact that the A’s will be the only professional team playing in the venue past this season.

Who is RingCentral?

Founded in 1999, RingCentral is a publicly traded provider of cloud-based communications and collaboration solutions for businesses. The company has 2,500 employees with offices in the U.S. in Denver, Charlotte, and Boca Raton. 

Late last year, the company became a foundational partner for Chase Center, the new home of the Warriors. Estimates have that deal pegged at $1 million per year for 10 years.

Tale of two venues…

While only 16 miles separate Oracle Park and RingCentral Coliseum, the future of both couldn’t be more different.

Earlier this year, the San Francisco Giants signed a 10-year, $200 million dollar deal with Oracle to rename their home to Oracle Park.

With the A’s expected to leave the Coliseum in the coming years pending developments with their bid to get a new stadium, RingCentral was able to get a deal for a venue with two pro sports teams (at least for this year) at 1/20th the cost of what Oracle is paying the Giants.

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Kansas City Royal Whit Merrifield Highlights Boulevard Brewing Campaign

Kansas City brewery Boulevard Brewing has tabbed Royals second baseman Whit Merrifield for a rebrand that was as natural as partnerships get.

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Photo Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Kansas City Royals second baseman Whit Merrifield is a major piece of a significant beer campaign by Kansas City’s Boulevard Brewing.

Merrifield, who led MLB in hits and stolen bases last season, has partnered with the craft brewer for its Unfiltered Whit campaign that promotes one of its flagship products, Unfiltered Wheat. The campaign features advertising, merchandise, a sweepstakes and plenty of player appearances. Boulevard has made the beer for 25 years, and now the brewery’s best-seller is getting a modern makeover.

According to the brewery, it’s one of the first endorsements between a Major League Baseball player and a craft brewery despite plenty of athletes loving beer and some, like former Boston Red Sox infielder Kevin Youkilis, owning breweries.

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As the brewery realized the “beer that built Boulevard” needed a refresh, it turned to an athlete who knows the brewery and the Kansas City community well, Boulevard CMO Natalie Gershon said. A witbier is a type of Belgian-style wheat beer, so Whit Merrifield’s name fits well even beyond the similarity to wheat.

“We joke that the campaign wrote itself,” Gershon said. “However, Whit is an amazing baseball player and a true fan of the brewery. When we got the chance to work together, the partnership came together very quickly as we both knew we wanted to do something fun, authentically Kansas City and charitably driven.”

As part of the campaign to introduce the rebranded Unfiltered Wheat, the Boulevard team and Merrifield came up with “Whit-icisms,” ultimately recording videos of the player and his life as a baseball player in Kansas City. Likewise, Merrifield’s likeness will be used on billboards throughout the Royals’ region, most notably on Boulevard’s outfield wall sign at Kauffman Stadium.

“Boulevard is an essential part of Kansas City,” Merrifield said in a statement. “I’m so proud of these iconic Kansas City partners and the opportunity to raise money and awareness for this incredible organization.”

A sweepstakes will give fans the chance to win a VIP experience for an on-field meet-and-greet with Merrifield in September plus tickets to the Royals’ Dugout Suite with Boulevard representatives. Boulevard also created new ad spots for the Unfiltered Wheat for Hulu and the Fox Sports Royals Live Postgame Show.

Finally, as part of the deal, Boulevard has partnered with Kansas City’s Charlie Hustle Clothing Co. to make Unfiltered Whit t-shirts, with a portion of the $35 tees going to the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Kansas City.

READ MORE: Less is More: How Andrew Luck Handles Off-The-Field Partnerships

“We are thrilled to team up with Boulevard Brewing and Whit Merrifield to create our spin on Unfiltered Whit and to support a great cause,” Charlie Hustle CMO Katie Martincich said. “This collaboration is near and dear to us as it embodies three things we love: synergy among KC brands, enthusiasm for local sports, and charitable contributions to a great KC foundation.”

The partnership with Merrifield deepens longstanding ties between the brewery and the baseball team. Boulevard became the “Official Craft Beer” of the Royals in 2017, which established six Boulevard-centric destinations within Kauffman Stadium and the brewery’s Smokestack in the outfield. Additionally, the brewery has rolled out the Mexican-style lager ¡Vamos! for the second year, a beer made as a salute to the Royals, complete with the branding. Royals imagery has also been used on some of Boulevard’s packaging in Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Oklahoma and Arkansas.

Several other teams have “Official Craft Beer” sponsorships with breweries, so it might not be long before more players are jumping on board with endorsement deals. It’s hard to imagine any brewery, though, partnering with a player whose name lends itself toward easier branding.

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