The art of CIAA dealing

By Herbert L. White
Updated: February 12, 2010

CHARLOTTE — The CIAA isn’t standing pat with its brand.

The league announced new events, sponsorships and media partners in advance of the 2010 basketball tournament at Time Warner Cable Arena.

The tournament, third-largest in the country behind the ACC and SEC, is moving its men’s quarterfinals and semifinals to TV One.

The men’s final will be broadcast on Charlotte-based ESPNU.

The reason: That’s where the league’s core audience is located.

“Sponsors like being reached by minorities,” Kerry said. “TV One reaches 55 million. We were not reaching the same (audience) on (ESPN) Classic. They weren’t watching Classic. What we tried to do is juggle the best we could for the CIAA and if I can do a TV deal where I could reach 55 million people, people jump on that.

“Plus, they’re going to show the tournament four times a year, so I’m marketing the CIAA and I don’t have to pay to market, so there’s a method behind it.”

In addition to the basketball tournament, the CIAA, which sponsored the first college football championship game in 1970, is moving that postseason contest to TV One in November.

“Advertisers are trying to get minorities,” Kerry said. “They’ve got 96 percent penetration with minorities. I don’t know what the other stations are, but that’s why we moved. We’re trying to get those TV dollars, we’re trying to get those web dollars, and that’s important for us.”

The CIAA is moving full scale into new media as well, with every tournament game on ESPN 360.com, the broadcasters’ web portal. There’s also league-sponsored chat rooms and tournament-specific Websites with schedules and fan information.

“That’s the deal. Viral, Twitter or bitter,” Kerry said. “You’ve got to be competitive; you’ve got to change. You can’t sit on anything for 10 years and say ‘I’m doing good,’ because you’re not doing good. Everybody’s copying, everybody’s trying to do the same thing in this business.”

The wheeling and dealing doesn’t stop with media. League and Charlotte officials are negotiating a new three-year deal to stay through 2015. Nothing has been finalized, but Kerry said Charlotte and the CIAA have been mutually beneficial.

“This is one of the best places we’ve ever been,” he said. “I’m hoping we’ll be here. Our fans are down here, plus we’re (on the border) with South Carolina. This is a good place for us.”

Expansion is also on Kerry’s radar. Chowan University joined the CIAA last year to boost membership to 11, and Winston-Salem State and Lincoln (Pa.) rejoin the league in the spring.

Another school – Kerry won’t reveal its identity – is negotiating a deal, which he touts as a better investment than most Division I leagues. Kerry hinted the candidate fits the CIAA’s geographic footprint, which stretches from Charlotte (Johnson C. Smith) to Philadelphia (Lincoln).

“There’s a 14th member in there,” he said. “I’m talking to them right now. The smallest budget in Division I is $6 million. You can have a budget in Division II for $750,000. What we’re selling is great sports and good education.”