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Volume 21 No. 6

Events and Attractions

Bracket Town, the hub of sponsor activation and fan events at the Final Four, will soon have more modest fan-festival cousins at the NCAA’s College World Series and lacrosse championships.

The NCAA is working with its marketing partners at Turner Sports and CBS to create fan-fest areas that have the flair of Bracket Town, just on a smaller scale for both of those NCAA championships.

Unlike Bracket Town, which charges $10, admission to the fan fests at the College World Series and lacrosse championships will be free. Bracket Town is an indoor event typically held in a convention center, whereas the fan events for lacrosse and the College World Series will be outdoors.

IMG College manages the NCAA’s ancillary events and is working with Turner and CBS on the fan events.

The lacrosse final four will meet at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore for the semifinals and finals on May 28 and 30. The College World Series in its traditional home of Omaha, Neb., will be held June 18-28 in the new TD Ameritrade Park.

“What we’d like to do is mimic the success of Bracket Town on a smaller footprint,” said Will Funk, Turner’s senior vice president for NCAA partnerships and branded programming. “What we’ve had in the past has been pretty limited. Basically, we’re saying that we want to make an investment in these championships and we’re asking the NCAA’s partners to come with us.”

The lacrosse and baseball championships were chosen because of their attendance and the sponsor interest in those events. The lacrosse matches in the final four from 2008-10 have averaged nearly 43,000 fans. The College World Series typically draws more than 20,000 fans per session and a total of more than 330,000 for the 10 days.

Shea Guinn, a senior vice president at IMG College and chief of the ancillary events, said the long-term goal is to expand fan festivals that create more value for the NCAA’s corporate partners and enhance the fan experience.

“The goal is to eventually have something as robust as Bracket Town, but we’re just starting this process,” Guinn said. “We’re just at the first step, so the changes will be subtle at first, but hopefully we’ll see it ramped up as part of a multiyear process.”

Turner and CBS are in ongoing discussions with NCAA corporate champions and partners to determine who will participate. Corporate champions AT&T, Coca-Cola and Capital One are expected to be at the front of the line to activate in Baltimore and Omaha, while Buick, Hershey and others also have expressed interest.

Capital One intends to take some of its activation elements from Bracket Town to the fan fests at lacrosse and the College World Series. At Bracket Town, Capital One’s area enables fans to kick soccer balls into a goal, slap hockey pucks into a net, throw footballs to stationary targets, hit golf balls in a swing simulator, and hit Wiffle balls in a mini-Rosenblatt Stadium. The idea is to highlight the NCAA’s other championships in an interactive way. Rosenblatt was the home of the College World Series until this year.

The State Farm college slam dunk and 3-point contest, which for 23 years has been held on the Thursday night prior to the Final Four, might have some competition.

Turner and CBS, the NCAA’s marketing partners, are considering a skills competition of their own on the Buick-sponsored center court in Bracket Town on that same Thursday night.

Just 13 months ago, the NCAA had embraced the dunk and 3-point event by bringing it into Bracket Town for the first time, but that proved to be a short-lived arrangement. The competitions had previously been at an arena in the Final Four city, but away from the NCAA’s activities.

The event didn’t return to Bracket Town this year because NCAA partner Buick sponsors the center court and Mercedes-Benz is a major sponsor of the 3-point contest. Instead, it moved off-site this year to the University of Houston’s Hofheinz Pavilion. It apparently will stay off the NCAA’s site in the future because of the potential for sponsor conflicts.

Intersport, the Chicago-based agency that created and manages the slam dunk and 3-point event, sells sponsorship to its event and ESPN televises it. State Farm, Mercedes and Denny’s are among the major sponsors.

— Michael Smith