Hoops Culture and Community Collide at Mtn Dew and Ruffles’ NBA All-Star Activation

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A constant flow of NBA players and personalities swept through The Block during All-Star Weekend.

NBA All-Star Weekend invited more fanfare than ever this year as the league celebrated its 75th anniversary and when it came to sponsorship activations, Mtn Dew and Ruffles understood the assignment. The PepsiCo-owned brands teamed up for the first time to elevate their presence at the event with a larger-than-life, co-owned hub that blended basketball culture with community tie-ins. Welcome to “The Block.”

The Block was just that—a footprint that took up a full city block and a few adjacent storefronts in one of Cleveland’s hottest neighborhoods. The space was designed to give fans a place to celebrate their love of the game on and off the court, meaning that in addition to catching player appearances, attendees dropped by to experience other elements of hoops culture, including music, fashion, gaming and art. Overall, the goal was to level-up the fan experience and insert Mtn Dew and Ruffles into the All-Star Weekend conversation in a meaningful way—and let’s just say, mission accomplished.

Fans who visited The Block encountered a space brimming with both Mtn Dew and Ruffles’ iconic branding, including ample neon green and blue lighting. On-site, they could grab a seat in a dedicated gaming lounge and check out an NBA 2K gaming installation. They could also admire featured artwork created by artists Glen Infante and Aldonte Flonnoy, and muralist Isaiah Williams (and create social content using the designs as backdrops).

yahoo-sports-nba-crossover-2022-retrospective-teaserMore NBA All-Star Weekend Strategies:

Talent appearances included the likes of NBA All-Stars Zach LaVine and Jayson Tatum, and WNBA MVP A’ja Wilson. Fans could also snap a photo in the same black wingback chair that Ruffles partner and NBA icon LeBron James sat in for the brand’s first “own your ridges” ad, which dropped on Christmas Day. And then there were fashion collabs, from Ruffles’ partnership with The Shoe Surgeon, who created anniversary “ridge-tops” that ESPN analyst Richard Jefferson wore during the NBA All-Star Game broadcast, to an exclusive Dew x Midwest Kids four-piece capsule collection.

Across the activation were undercurrents of the “you do you” (or is it you Dew you?) ethos both brands are renowned for—Mtn Dew has long encouraged fans to “do the Dew” and live unconventionally, while Ruffles’ most recent campaign encourages consumers to be themselves and “own their ridges” in a nod to its ridged chips. This included an interactive robot that followed consumers around outside The Block and asked them to talk about owning their ridges and how life’s ups and downs have made them unique. Conversations ranged from lighthearted topics around fans’ quirky fashion sense, to heavier topics like mental health and homelessness.

Of course, an interactive sampling bar was also part of The Block experience. Attendees could stop by for Mtn Dew-infused cocktails and a taste of the custom flavors Ruffles created in partnership with its “chip deal athletes”: Anthony Davis’ Lime Jalapeño, Jayson Tatum’s Flamin’ Hot BBQ and the newest innovation, James’ Flamin’ Hot Cheddar and Sour Cream. Meanwhile, the Mtn Dew x Ruffles court, which took up the most real estate inside the footprint, was another essential touchpoint. There, a constant stream of NBA players stopped by, and comedian Druski and two hip-hop artists performed. It was also the location of the brands’ three-hour live Twitter broadcast featuring league players and personalities, performances and giveaways, which was designed to extend the reach of the activation and was ultimately viewed by more than one million fans.

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A three-point shooting competition highlighted Mtn Dew’s sponsorship of the NBA’s Three-Point Contest.

“Audience engagement was really important to us, so we had the local community, we also had the core NBA fans that traveled, and supplemented it with our livestream event through Twitter to reach fans at home,” says Courtney Larson, head of brand marketing at Ruffles. “There were a lot of repeat visitors over the weekend and we wanted to create something that felt very approachable, organic and just a natural fit. So The Block was really the hangout place when you weren’t at a game.”

But wait, there’s more. Visitors at The Block could participate in Mtn Dew’s three-point shot competition, which underscored the brand’s title sponsorship of the NBA All-Star Three-Point Contest on Feb. 19. Participants could take shots on mini hoops, see how they stacked up on a leaderboard and win prizes throughout the weekend. And at a storefront across the street, fans could get Ruffles-inspired fades (a short, buzzed hairstyle) from a female barber who appeared in the brand’s “own your ridges” spot.

Purpose-driven, community-focused elements were also woven throughout the brands’ presence at All-Star Weekend. Like the Ridge 4-point Shooting Competition that took place just before the Ruffles All-Star Celebrity Game on Feb. 18. For every shot made from behind the brand’s 4-point Ridge Line, Ruffles and the NBA donated $4,000 to support the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, with a minimum $40,000 donation. In a similar vein, for every basket made during the Three-Point Contest from within The Dew Zone (a dedicated area on the court that awards three points per shot), Mtn Dew donated $5,000 to nonprofit Ross Initiative Sports for Equality.

To boot, as part of its multi-year partnership with James and the LeBron James Family Foundation, Ruffles hosted an off-site Own Your Ridges summit in the player’s hometown of Akron, OH, just before All-Star Weekend kicked off. A diverse roster of community “heroes,” from Paralympic athletes, to James’ own mother, Gloria, to nonprofit founders that hailed from disadvantaged backgrounds, were on hand to lead programming for local seventh graders. The students even snagged custom bags of the new Flamin’ Hot Cheddar and Sour Cream Ruffles.

When the final buzzer sounded and all was said and done, Mtn Dew dubbed The Block its best execution of an NBA All-Star Weekend activation yet.

“You could see the ebb and flow of the crowd throughout the weekend, coming in and doing their own thing and being able to engage with the brands and those different activations, but then also having these big moments where players would come in or musical artists would come in and people were able to see the broader NBA culture on display in a way that anyone could get involved,” says Matthew Nielsten, senior director-brand marketing at Mountain Dew. “Bringing the NBA experience to the broader population and making it democratic in that regard is a big focal point for how we approached the weekend versus some of the premium or corporate experiences that you might find at a typical All-Star Weekend [activation] at a lot of venues. This was for everybody.” Agency: Motive.


Step Inside The Block:

Kait Shea
Posted by Kait Shea

Kait joined EM in 2015 and today enjoys her role as senior editor, digital content. When she’s not in reporter mode, rocking mermaid pants at Comic-Con or running laps at MWC Barcelona, you can find her at home listening to music.
View all articles by Kait Shea →

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