The Basketball Tournament 5v5 One Million Dollar Prize And New ESPN Partnership
The Basketball Tournament (TBT) is a free, open and winner take the new million dollars prize event that today announced a significant television partnership with ESPN for the 2015 single-elimination, expanded field. The Sports Techie chatted with TBT, Founder and Creator, Jonathan Mugar, located in Boston, MA about their launch last summer, the exciting business development happenings and the social media driven format. If you want to enter a team, do so via the privately funded company website beginning April 1 which leads up to the championship game broadcasting live on ESPN, August 2. Notre Dame Fighting Alumni are defending champion and ready to take on all basketball challengers for a chance win the million dollar payout.
Sometimes a good idea is all it takes to get the wheels rolling on a sports technology concept. While TBT is not reinventing the basketball wheel, it is a high level hoops tournament that does things a little different thanks to social media recruiting done via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram platforms. The event was tested last year and is now expanding to a national format covering four regions while the field is expanded to 96 teams. Mugar said, “Because the model consists of organic growth, we expect nominal financial resources will be spent on marketing, activation and exposure helping the brand save money we can use elsewhere.” As a result, ESPN reached out to TBT.
I asked him about how they plan to pay for the million dollar prize. Mugar says they will fund it through a private group combined with money from advertisers and supporters. They are currently soliciting interested potential sponsors and partners on an ongoing basis.
“On August 2nd, two teams will play a winner take all game of basketball for $1 million on national television for the first time, and the door is wide open for anyone out there to create a team and play for it,” said Jonathan Mugar, Founder of The Basketball Tournament. “Last year we were able to prove the concept of a high stakes, democratic tournament, with an exceptionally skilled collection of players and an entertaining event. Our agreement with ESPN, along with our market expansion, further validates that we are on the track to grow even beyond what we had hoped for in year two. ”
It all beings again this season on July 10-12 when opening rounds are played at regional sites at small college venues in Los Angeles and Atlanta, then again the following weekend of July 17-19, in Chicago and Philadelphia.
The Super 17 bracket begins in Chicago on Thursday, July 23 with the Notre Dame Fighting Alumni looking to knock off the windy city entrant’s lowest seed in the opening TBT game televised on ESPNU.
Then on Friday, July 24, the round of 16 in Chicago begins, broadcast over a live stream by TBT. The broadcast coverage ramps up for the quarterfinal games when ESPNU carries each live game on the Saturday July 25, marathon coverage.
The survivors of the Chicago component next travel to New York City for the semifinals on Saturday, August 1, showed live on ESPN. Then on Sunday, August 2, two tired and proven finalists go at it in the winner-take-all, $1 million championship game, at 3pm ET, viewable on ESPN’s flagship station.
“We have been impressed with the work Jon and his team have done in growing the event in only one year,” said Burke Magnus, Senior Vice President, Programming Acquisitions, ESPN. “It’s unique programming that will appeal to a lot of fans.”
Fan-Centric Selection Process
Things to remember are that entry is free, the online application process runs April 1st until June 1st and the only way for teams to qualify is to recruit enough votes at TheTournament.com. Each squad consists of a General Manager (GM), a minimum of seven players, and the need to gather over 100 votes through Facebook, Twitter and Instagram social media channels.
Each GM creates a team profile on TheTournament.com and then begins spreading the word with help on an assigned booster over the web in hopes of harvesting viral support to earn them an automatic bid. Applicants must be at least 18 years of age and willing to forgo amateur status. Teams can have also a coach.
Fans are asked to signup over the online registration software and then are eligible to vote for their favorite team because for the first time, the winning team’s fan group will share 5 percent ($50,000) of the million dollar payout. Payment for fans comes in a staggered form, whichever active fan recruits the most fans for their fave group earns the top prize of $5,000. The next 2-21 most active fans earns $1,000 each and on it goes until 93rd place and beyond earn no money but get free swag in the form of a Championship t-shirt.
The biggest social factor of all is that the 18 teams per region are selected exclusively after the number of registered votes teams are able to recruit online are officially counted. Six additional teams will be invited per region to ball based on both creativity and talent.
$1,000,000 Winner Take All–TBT 2015
Ed Erhardt, President of ESPN Global Customer Marketing, commented, “With an intriguing concept and regional events in several top U.S. cities, The Basketball Tournament is sure to attract sponsors and advertisers.”
Since this was a new sporting event, especially one that is open, they worked on eliminating risk such as securing venues that could host 8 games a day and deciding on using indoor rather than outdoor courts so weather concerns were not a factor.
Year one saw a few collegiate players and even pro coaches in the mix. Many of the Cornell teammates from their 2010 Sweet 16 run put together a team, a Villanova final four squad and a Princeton group played together. Non-profits such as St. Anthony High School in New Jersey coached in the past by the legendary Bob Hurley, Sr. put together a team of former players. The Rucker Park team was made up of local Chicago playground legends.
The best team model was the Notre Dame Fighting Alumni because they leveraged their alumni network and had men’s basketball Head Coach, Mike Brey, fly out before the finals, take the entire team to diner and inspire them.
Mugar mentioned that some players graduate with substantial social followers. Marshall Henderson, former Ole Miss guard has 80,000 twitter followers he asked to support his team.
Facilities on the campuses of Philadelphia University and Boston University hosted the inaugural tournament back in June of 2014. In the championship final, the Notre Dame Fighting Alumni were led by former All BIG EAST players Torin Francis, Chris Thomas, Russell Carter and they defeated the tournament favorite Team Barstool (Barstool Sports blog), led by Ross Burns, Dave Portnoy, Dan Katz and a few players with NBA experience, including Los Angeles Clipper Dahntay Jones, 72-68, to win the event and the $500,000.
ABOUT THE BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT
Conceived by CEO Jonathan Mugar as the ultimate opportunity for fans, athletes and social media mavens to create teams and then participate in a high-stakes, professionally run and organized sporting event, The Basketball Tournament is a winner-take-all single elimination open competition for players 18 years of age or older. In its first season, The Basketball Tournament drew over 100 potential team entries from around the country with 32 teams ultimately making the field. Participants ranged from professional players and recent college talent to local legends and pickup basketball stars. An overwhelming success in its launch year, the event is doubling in size in 2015. Among the advisors for the event are sports industry veterans Tony Ponturo of Ponturo Management Group, Andy Dolich of Dolich Consulting, and Len DeLuca of Len DeLuca & Associates, LLC. For more details visit http://www.thetournament.com/.
Sports Techie, My good friend was a former sport executive for the Hoop-it-Up 3v3 tournament and helped take it national so I knew firsthand how it grew in stature over the years since I worked for him during Seattle, Los Angeles and Orange County events so I asked Mugar if they were a role model. He explained that although he may have played in that event, this is a 5v5 format that uses college rules, three D1 refs and a single elimination format. There is also no charge. No doubt though, grassroots focuses by both tournaments are keys to their successes.
The open model encourages former NBA players like Steve Nash or Ray Allen to get his their Santa Clara or UConn teammates to form a team. Perhaps a “He Got Game” team named Jesus Shuttleworth is in order. Jay Bilas and Duke are certainly on his wish list.
Another surprising fact I learned is that the NCAA has not contacted Mugar yet. Current Villanova men’s basketball Head Coach, Jay Wright, supported the Nova team which made me curious as to why the NCAA has not stepped in to ensure everything is ok from their end.
The startup operates with a staff of 6 fulltime employees and contracts out another 80-100 to make operational ends meet but surprisingly use no volunteers at the present time.
All their software and web tech was designed by Genuine Interactive in Boston and tested last year. They do not have an app right now but would like one in the future.
I wanted to know if there was an exit strategy in place. It turns out not really, they simply want to build up the business on an annual basis as a high stakes and open tournament that is considered a media property. If they can get the right kind of buzz surrounding the August 2nd championship game while offering compelling content for a fun experience for viewers watching live, they will have fulfilled initial company goals. Mugar gave props to their advisors because they have been essential in getting in front of partners and investors.
One of the best facts to uncover is that prize money was donated with aligned charities and nonprofits. The Notre Dame Fighting Alumni gave 40K to Coaches Versus Cancer.
Finally, I wonder if there was an entertainment aspect to the live games. He said they had DJs and a PA national anthem but that was it for now. I stumped him for a second when I asked him who the dream singer would be for the final on ESPN, perhaps Lady Gaga I said. He thought it over and responded with either the Arcade Fire lead singer Win Butler or Paul McCartney of the Beatles. Good answer but what about Kanye.
Next year the plan is to grow the prize and add more regions. This year, applications close on June 1st then some team will become the first million dollar winners while all fans get to watch on ESPN and hopefully, WatchESPN on digital devices if it gets enough traction. Well done TBT.
See y’all later in Seattle and here in Atlanta.
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