Big East turns to Ketchum as it forges a new identity

NEW YORK: The Big East conference has turned to Ketchum as it builds a new identity for its remaining members.

NEW YORK: The Big East conference has turned to Ketchum as it builds a new identity for its remaining members.

The firm has worked with the conference for less than two months. The Big East hired Ketchum based on a relationship its staff had with conference employees, said Nick Ragone, partner in the agency's Washington DC office.

This summer, the so-called “Catholic 7,” made up of Georgetown, St. John's, Villanova, Seton Hall, Providence, Marquette, and DePaul, will exit the league. They are in financial negotiations to take the “Big East” name with them, as well as the right to play their conference basketball tournament at Madison Square Garden after the split.

Basketball experts have speculated that the Catholic schools will add other universities, such as Xavier, Butler, and Creighton, to the league, which will be known as the Big East as of next season. The yet-to-be-named conference working with Ketchum is set to include Central Florida, Cincinnati, Connecticut, Houston, Louisville, Memphis, South Florida, Southern Methodist, and Temple, among others.

Ketchum's task is to help the remaining Big East universities come up with a new name, brand position, and PR narrative, as well as to disseminate that story to a wide range of stakeholders such as journalists, universities, sports fans, and alumni.

Rumors that a new name, which will not be announced until this summer, has been selected are untrue, said Ragone. He added that there are no front runners for the new moniker.

The firm has set up interviews and helped commissioner Mike Aresco focus on the key messages that the remaining schools have solid athletic programs, good academic standing, and large footprints in key markets such as Florida, Texas, and the Northeast.

Aresco has set the tone for the conference's media outreach by being as forthcoming as possible, Ragone said.

Even though a deal is being finalized, the Big East is also emphasizing that TV deals are in the works with ESPN and CBS.

“As someone who has a TV background coming from CBS, Aresco knows it's critical to have a great TV deal,” Ragone said. “I really do think that [the Big East] is poised for not a comeback, but rather, to build something unique and special.”

Sara Naggar, a communications director for the Big East, confirmed Ketchum's hiring, but declined to comment further.

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