Each Power 5 conference handles their conference tournaments differently, but does it make a difference?
March Madness is upon us and the conference tournaments have already started. Some of the smaller conferences have finished, but the Power 5 is just beginning. This year, each conference is spread out in a location representing their territory. While you may not think that needs to be said, remember the Big Ten (B1G) held their conference tournament last year at Madison Square Garden.
This year the B1G is in Chicago, the ACC in Charlotte, the SEC in Nashville, the Big-12 in Kansas City, and the Pas 12 in Vegas. Each of those locations matches up perfectly with each conference, but can we say the same for their sponsors?
The SEC is the only conference tournament that does not have a title sponsor and they never have. They instead allow their normal sponsors to activate and show their presence. It's an interesting route, but it does increase the value of a sponsorship with the conference as a whole.
Meanwhile, the ACC and Pac-12 tournaments are both sponsored by New York Life and have been for a few years. The Pac-12 tournament was sponsored by Pacific Life from 2003 through 2014 but switched over to New York Life in 2015. Both are life insurance companies that do their business nationwide, the only difference is that Pacific Life is headquartered in California while New York Life has their headquarters in Manhattan. For a conference based solely on the West Coast, Pacific Life was more congruent--at least in the brand name. The ACC tournament has also had New York Life for several years and has even recently held their tournament in Brooklyn.
Out in the south-west part of the country, the Big-12 has had Phillips 66 as their conference tournament title sponsor for over a decade and it doesn't look like it will be changing anytime soon. Phillips 66 is a nationwide energy company that is recognized by a lot of different people. Its headquarters are in Texas which is prime Big-12 territory. The location combined with the length of this partnership has made Phillips 66 a household name when it comes to the Big-12 tournament.
Perhaps the most intriguing conference tournament when it comes to location and sponsorship is the B1G. Up until recently, the B1G has not dabbled in having title sponsors for their tournament. Last year they partnered with SoFi, a wealth management company, for a multi-year deal to sponsor the conference and be a title sponsor for the conference tournament. This recent move represented the B1G modeling more after the ACC, Pac-12, and Big-12 rather than the SEC.
Overall, most Power 5 conferences have picked one sponsor for their conference tournament and work hard on keeping it the same over several years. The multi-year aspect allows for the conference and the brand to better associate themselves with the consumer and get the message across. Another takeaway I have is how 3 of the 4 conferences that have a title sponsor are for companies that are in the insurance/wealth management industry. It seems random, but New York Life and SoFi obviously feel they can benefit from aligning themselves with college basketball.
Check out some pictures below featuring the different logos for the conference tournaments.
Written by: James Campbell
James Campbell is a recent graduate of the University of Michigan with his B.A. in Sport Management. Throughout his time at Michigan, he has worked with Detroit City FC, MiLife Sport & Social Club, and USA Hockey. - @Jimmy10Campbell