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Why Top Brands Are Sponsoring College Basketball’s HBCU Legacy Classic

Last Updated: July 1, 2023
Hear from Walmart, Pizza Hut, Invesco, and more about what makes going into business with Michael B. Jordan’s HBCU basketball invitational a can’t-miss opportunity that goes far beyond the court.

Ahead of Michael B. Jordan’s second Invesco QQQ Legacy Classic HBCU basketball showcase in February, major brands are flocking to get involved in and around the event. It’s the latest example of the ongoing momentum that speaks to the rising tide of both reach and support for sporting events featuring historically Black institutions and their student-athletes since 2020.

In addition to the Legacy Classic HBCU Invitational, the NFL debuted its first HBCU Combine, Chris Paul hosts the Boost Mobile HBCU Challenge and the Boost Mobile HBCU Tip-Off, Aflac sponsors an HBCU All-Star Game, the NBA launched its own HBCU Classic as part of All-Star Weekend, and the Black College Football Hall of Fame puts on the HBCU Legacy Bowl.

Each event provides an opportunity for brands to pour resources into these colleges and universities and raise their national profiles while enhancing the causes of diversity, equity, and inclusion within their own companies.

Walmart is one of the companies that will be activating around the 2023 HBCU Legacy Classic through its Makers Studio, which will showcase creations from HBCU alum and Black entrepreneurs.

“In addition to celebrating HBCU athletic programs and highlighting these talented athletes, this event is also about prioritizing pathways to opportunity. Our support for HBCUs is vast and ongoing. That is a shared commitment between our brands, and it’s why Walmart is proud to also sponsor the College Fair and HBCU Pitch Competition. Creating a strong pipeline of talent will serve to advance diversity in the workplace long term.”

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And while 2023 is Walmart’s first year activating around the event, Invesco QQQ isn’t just the Legacy Classic’s title sponsor — they’re a founding partner.

“Given our partnership with the NCAA, the Legacy Classic’s mission resonated with us as an extension of that commitment,” Anna Paglia, Global Head of ETFs and Indexed Strategies at Invesco QQQ, told Boardroom. “By partnering with Michael B. Jordan, Invesco QQQ can provide young student-athletes access to the tools and knowledge needed to be more confident about financial decisions. These student-athletes are at such a critical time in their lives, and the financial decisions they make today can surely impact their future.”

College basketball tournaments built around season tip-offs, November and December holidays, and conference championships, to say nothing of March Madness, present significant opportunities for brands to activate alongside many of the most visible, prolific schools in the nation. However, events built around HBCUs –which are historically underfunded and under-resourced compared to many of their neighbors — have not typically been considered attractive to quite the same range of brand partners exposure, as the MEAC, SWAC, SIAC, and CIAA conferences do not boast nearly the same number of nationally televised games as Power Five schools, if any at all. Notably, the Invesco QQQ Legacy Classic combats this by putting on a series of complementary events including a startup pitch competition, an esports tournament, an influencer suite, and a career fair.

The hoops showcase also struck a deal with Turner Sports for its games to be broadcast on TNT.

The promise of a litany of bonus events surrounding the basketball games themselves was appealing to both Pizza Hut and Gatorade subsidiary Propel Water.

The North Carolina Central Eagles tip off against the Delaware State Hornets during the first half of the 2021 Legacy Classic HBCU Basketball Invitational at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey (Rich Schultz/Getty Images)

As a Pizza Hut representative told Boardroom, “We love the variety of ways that Pizza Hut can authentically connect with the Legacy Classic beyond just signage and logos at the arena. By immersing the brand within specific components of the Classic — Divine Nine Stroll-off, esports tournament, influencer suite, and more — Pizza Hut’s presence can be organically integrated within the entire experience.”

“We’re eager to use this platform to bring the Propel brand in front of even more athletes and fitness enthusiasts,” a Propel spokesperson added. “We’ll be showing up on-and-off the court by supporting a dance and cheer squad in-game performance, and by providing opportunities for movement both during the game for attendees, and post-game for students.”

The 2023 Invesco QQQ Legacy Classic HBCU Invitational takes place on Saturday, Feb. 4 at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey featuring Morgan State University vs. Delaware State University and Norfolk State University vs. Hampton University in a doubleheader televised on TNT.

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