SBJ/March 26-April 1, 2012/Events and Attractions

Tweets play role in dunk contest

This week’s college dunk contest will get an assist from Twitter users.

Intersport’s popular event at the site of the Final Four will be decided for the first time, in part, by votes on Twitter from fans watching on ESPN.

The dunk contest, which has been run by Chicago-based Intersport for more than 20 years, typically is shown on ESPN with a one-hour or two-hour delay. Thursday night’s contest, however, will be televised live from start to finish.

“The great part of the dunk contest is the immediate payoff with the dunk, followed by the judges throwing up their scorecards,” said Shannon Dan, Intersport’s vice president of digital media. “We want to keep that aspect alive while also opening it up to give the fans a voice on Twitter.”

After each dunk, viewers will go to Twitter and post the dunker’s name and score, and those will be quickly tallied into an overall fan score. ESPN broadcasters will give the viewers instructions before the dunks begin. That average fan score will be figured along with scores from the four celebrity judges.

Increasing the social media extensions for the dunk competition and its accompanying three-point contest have been primary goals for Intersport, now in its 24th year of staging the basketball events in the host city of the Final Four. Intersport has worked with the NCAA in the past to include the dunk and three-point contests in the NCAA’s Bracket Town fan fest, but Intersport decided last year to go back to doing the event on its own.

This year’s dunk and three-point contests will be held at Tulane’s Fogelman Arena. State Farm is the event’s title sponsor, while Denny’s also is back as the dunk contest sponsor.

While Twitter gives fans the more immediate involvement in the judging, Intersport has been active on the dunk contest’s Facebook page for months, inviting dunkers on college teams to upload videos of their best dunks. The idea was to find a “Darkhorse Dunker,” in other words, a no-name who seldom plays or a player from a small school, to participate in the dunk contest. Voters on Facebook chose James Justice, a 5-foot-9 guard from NAIA Martin Methodist College in Tennessee, to compete.

This is the second year that Intersport has used Facebook to incorporate fan votes into the selection process.
Intersport, which produces seven live events like this each year for TV, will watch how the Twitter voting works at the dunk contest and will perhaps add it to some of its other events, like the college home run derby, the high school dunk contest or the college football skills challenge.

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