AFRC Recruiting teams up with Naismith Basketball HOF

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Chance Babin
  • Air Force Reserve Command Recruiting Public Affairs
Air Force Reserve Command Recruiting Service teamed up with the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame to sponsor seven early season collegiate basketball tournament from coast to coast throughout the holidays.

The tournaments were held from the Northeast in Connecticut and Atlantic City, to South in Miami and reaching west to Phoenix and Los Angeles to help brand the Air Force Reserve. Nearly 56,000 people attended the tournaments combined and more than 2.5 million viewers tuned in to watch the games.

At the Air Force Reserve Jerry Colangelo Classic Basketball tournament at the Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix, Arizona, recruiters from Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, held a mass enlistment for 10 future Reserve Citizen Airmen. The enlistment took place at center court, but the boon for advertising was the tournament’s final game.

The championship game held December 9, 2018, featured the 7th ranked Tennessee Volunteers against the top ranked Gonzaga Bulldogs. The game was decided on a 3-pointer by Tennessee in the waning seconds knocking off the nation’s No. 1 ranked team 76-73 to take the title. The game aired live on ESPN with Air Force Reserve branding streaming to a national audience.

“Having this amazing game go down to the wire live on ESPN to a national audience was exactly the kind of advertising we are looking for by sponsoring these national tournaments. As in all sponsorships, we hope to keep viewers until the end of the game. Games like this really put us on the map and increase our impressions to the viewing public,” said Chief Master Sgt. Michael Johnson, AFRC RS, chief of advertising. “The highlights were shown repeatedly on ESPN Sports Center and social media, magnifying AFRC’s presence at the game. It was a great value buy for Reserve recruiting.”

Nearly 10,200 people attended the tournament in Arizona and more than 771,000 television viewers watched the games, not to mention the countless social media views.

The Air Force Reserve Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament and the Hall of Fame Women’s Showcase were the first of the numerous tournaments. Both were held at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut and featured eight men’s teams and one women’s game.

The women’s side was headlined by the University of Connecticut women’s team, winner of 11 national championships. The men’s tourney featured a couple of coaches who have Final Four resumes in Michigan head coach John Beilein and South Carolina’s Frank Martin.

“We’re just so excited to have the Air Force Reserve sponsoring all of our collegiate basketball events throughout the rest of this year. It’s very exciting and it’s good early season basketball,” said John L. Doleva, president and CEO of the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame. “And what a wonderful relationship we have. I hope we are helpful to the Air Force Reserve as well and we very much appreciate all you being here today. I look forward to a long standing relationship.”

The tournament drew a television audience of nearly 486,000 and had 21,431 fans in attendance.

AFRC recruiters worked the entire tournament, and as the lead sponsor AFRC had a huge digital presence in the arena as well as two logos on the court and behind the basket. The recruiters were also at mid court to recognize the all-tournament team members and present the Air Force Reserve Naismith Hall of Fame trophy to the winning teams.

"We are excited to represent the 439th Air Wing and Westover Air Reserve Base in the recruitment of men and woman here to be a part of the Air Force Reserve," said Senior Master Sgt. Anne Pfeiffer, the recruiting flight chief with 439th AW, Massachusetts. "This type of venue brings nationwide branding along with local participants and spectators who share the love of competition and the desire to win!"

Having not only the men’s tournament, but having the UConn Huskies women’s team was an opportunity to reach a more diverse audience.

“UConn is a massive national brand in women’s basketball, and they have an enormous following here in the Northeast,” Pfeiffer said.
“Additionally, the fact that AFRC Recruiting Service is sponsoring the American Athletic Conference, which UConn is a part of, will give us access to more events at the university in areas like men’s and women’s basketball, football and ROTC.”

Geno Auriemma, the head coach for the UConn’s women’s basketball team, spoke about the importance of having Air Force Reserve as a title sponsor of the tournament.

“I think especially during this time of the year in November people are sometimes forgetful of our veterans and all the people that serve,” Auriemma said. “Anything we can do to bring some attention, recognition and appreciation for our people in uniform I think it’s a good thing and it’s an honor for us to be asked to be involved. We’re proud to have you guys and to represent you.”

UConn defeated the Vanderbilt Commodores 80-42 in their game during the tournament.

On the men’s side, the tournament was divided into two four-team brackets. In one bracket the College of Holy Cross won the championship game over Siena College. Stony Brook University and Norfolk State were the other participants. Holy Cross Head Coach Bill Carmody discussed AFRC’s involvement in the tournament and some similarities.

“This is great. The Air Force Reserve sponsors this thing and you have eight teams come in here and all you ever talk about is playing together, playing as a team, working as a unit to try to accomplish a certain goal,” Carmody said. “I’m not in the Air Force and never have been, but certainly in the Air Force those are the kind of things you are looking for. You’re looking for leaders to emerge and the team falls behind them and the main thing is you share the wins the losses, the ups the downs and then you feel good about that and I think you can accomplish a lot.”

In the other bracket, the Michigan Wolverines took home the title by defeating the local favorite, Providence College, in the championship. South Carolina and George Washington University were the other teams in the bracket. The championship game was nationally televised on ESPN, giving AFRC a broad ranging audience.

Michigan Head Coach John Beilein shared his view on the military and collegiate athletics.

“It’s so huge to have something with that brand, the Air Force Reserve, involved with something like this. I think the longer we are involved in athletics and the armed services there is so much of a connection between the two and when we can bring that together its good stuff,” Beilein said. “We really study it. We study what the military does. We try to make sure they understand there’s no way you win in basketball without teamwork and I know there’s no way you win in the military without teamwork, so I know there’s some great analogies that you can make. But we’re just basketball and you guys are saving our country and that’s a much bigger task and we’re proud of you.”