NCAA tourney drives business to Newark, NJ

Newark's Prudential Center, which opened in 2007, is important to the city's revitalization.

Client: GoNewark Sports & Entertainment Committee, The City of Newark (Newark, NJ)
Agency: MWW Group (East Rutherford, NJ)
Campaign: GoNewark HoopFest
Duration: January 25 – March 28, 2011
Budget: less than $100,000

Newark's Prudential Center, which opened in 2007, is important to the city's revitalization. This year, and for the first time, the venue hosted the NCAA Division 1 Men's Basketball East Regional Finals March 24-27. The city hired MWW Group to help create and execute a campaign to leverage the opportunity to drive positive coverage of Newark.

“Newark is slowly rebuilding itself,” says Michael Fiur, who oversaw the city's GoNewark Sports & Entertainment Committee. “The tournament was the biggest opportunity to showcase Newark than anything in last 20 to 30 years.”

Ruth Sarfaty, EVP of media strategies at MWW, adds that the committee's priorities included ensuring fans and media had a positive experience, demonstrating to the NCAA that Newark is a desirable host city, and drives local business traffic.

Newark Mayor Cory Booker served as the face of the campaign.

Numerous events and activities were held around the basketball schedule to highlight Newark.

Traditional and social media outreach drove awareness.

Booker and governor Chris Christie kicked off the campaign at a January 25 press conference. Local and national media and bloggers were targeted. Booker highlighted Newark's resurgence in numerous interviews. The team also pitched and promoted events.

“Fanfest” events were held outside the Prudential Center during the tournament. They included kids' activities, basketball, food, and live music. The team promoted a March 24 open practice, in which the public came to watch teams practice for free.

Activities were held throughout Newark on Saturday, March 26, including performances by the Newark Boys Choir.

A Hoopfest section was created on the city's CVB site The city's existing Facebook page was used, and a Hoopfest Twitter page was established. Giveaways (New Jersey Devils' tickets, restaurant gift certificates, etc.) helped build Facebook and Twitter audiences.

Booker, who has more than 1 million Twitter followers, retweeted posts and links. The Prudential Center's digital media team also drove awareness online.

MWW reports that the mayor's office estimates the campaign contributed $10 million to $15 million in sales for Newark restaurants and hotels.

The NCAA announced it will consider the Prudential Center for future events.

More than 625 million media impressions were garnered January 17 to March 27 in outlets such as USA Today, New York Magazine, The New York Times, AP, Star-Ledger, and ESPN.

Facebook fans increased from 352 to 1,225. Nearly 900 Twitter followers were gained.

The team is working on a campaign surrounding the June 23 NBA draft at the Prudential Center.

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