SBJ/March 13-19, 2017/In Depth

NCAA partners create food-centric event

Three NCAA corporate partners have found a way to add a major new event to the already-busy Final Four weekend calendar.

Coca-Cola, Nabisco and Hershey, the NCAA’s three sponsors in the consumer packaged goods category, for the first time will stage the Taste of the Tournament, a 500-person event on March 31, the Friday night of the Final Four. It will be held from 6-9 p.m. at Desert Foothills, a scenic hotspot in Phoenix for corporate outings and destination weddings.

Guests are expected to include executives from NCAA partners, the local organizing committee, CBS and Turner, and college basketball coaches.

The Taste of the Tournament will feature some of the finest chefs in Phoenix with their specialty dishes at different tasting stations, while live music plays in the background.

Coca-Cola, Nabisco’s Mondelez brand and Hershey/Reese’s will make a donation to the St. Mary’s Food Bank in Phoenix based on the number of social media mentions from the event.

Retail partner Kroger and its Fry’s stores will be managing celebrity chef appearances at Phoenix-area stores as well.

Additionally, Kroger has been running a sweepstakes that will award a trip for two to the Final Four games and the Taste of the Tournament event.

Atlanta agency Melt is working with the brands to coordinate the inaugural event. Melt Chairman and CEO Vince Thompson said the event evolved out of talks with its client, Coca-Cola, over the past two years.

“We were searching for some fresh thinking and fresh events around the Final Four,” Thompson said. “It’s a neat thing to include many of the top chefs in Arizona, all of whom serve Coca-Cola products in their restaurants.”

— Michael Smith

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