STREETBALL SMARTS CREATOR OF HOOP-IT-UP EXPANDS GAME PLAN FOR LEAGUES, MARKETERS

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Streetball Partners in the short span of six years has made it into the major league of sports brands, expanding from its roots sponsoring a series of basketball competitions to other sports backed by the likes of Gatorade and AT&T.

For the major pro sports leagues, the Dallas-based event marketing company has become, for all practical purposes, the official grass-roots marketing agency.

Like Jordan for the weekend

"Events like Hoop-It-Up allow the average person to participate in officially sanctioned NBA entertainment. For a weekend, they can be like Mike," said Tad Brown, VP-marketing for Streetball Partners.

For marketers, the amenities aren't limited to the usual-sampling, signage and some crackly plugs over the PA system. Streetball Partners specializes in creating integrated promotions that move product in local markets. On top of that, Streetball can offer national TV exposure through NBC Sports, which holds an equity stake in the company.

"It's one-stop shopping," said Todd Burnett, national sports marketing manager for AT&T, now in its fourth year as a Hoop-It-Up sponsor. "Streetball Partners offers a national program with local extensions. And their events offer a relaxed, fun atmosphere, so consumers are more susceptible to listening to our messages."

Streetball opened in 1989 with a staff of seven and 18 Hoop-It-Up events. Today, the company boasts a staff of 85 and requires a product manager for its biggest sponsor, Quaker Oats Co.'s Gatorade (its three-year deal is estimated at $5 million).

Hooping-It-Up around the world

Plans call for Streetball to open offices on the West Coast, as well as London and San Juan, Puerto Rico, within the next year. Such growth reflects the global needs of Streetball's client sports leagues and marketers, and just how much they've come to rely on the company.

Hoop-It-Up is Streetball's original-and still its biggest and best known-property. Last year saw a 29% increase in participation to 170,000 registrants in the series of 3-on-3 basketball tournaments.

Other Streetball Partners activities include:

Air-It-Out, a flag football program sponsored by the NFL.

Spike-It-Up, a beach volleyball program endorsed by the Association of Volleyball Professionals.

Break Out, the NHL's street hockey program that will launch this summer.

Golf Skills Challenge, based on the made-for-NBC pro competition that's set for a fall debut.

For sports leagues, Streetball Partners allows for real interaction with fans. For example, a select few winning Hoop-It-Up teams get to scrimmage on a Court of Dreams against a team of NBA legends.

Streetball Partners works with each sports league signing sponsors for the events. League sponsors get first crack.

National sponsorships, priced at about $750,000, include spots in TV programs based on the events. They could also include branded vignettes, like a feature on Hoop-It-Up's slam-dunk competition, sponsored by Southwest Airlines, that airs during one of two Hoop-It-Up specials on NBC each year.

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