College Basketball officially kicks off this month with many schools engaging in a tradition called Midnight Madness, an event marking teams’ first official practice open to the public. Small and large programs around the country host Midnight Madness festivities all day and night (typically on or around October 15th) to generate excitement about the upcoming season, and these celebrations are full of exhilaration and, often, larger-than-life.

To entertain March Madness attendees – generally die-hard season ticket holders and university students – most programs go far beyond a simple inter-squad game: dunk and 3-point contests are standard, as are homecoming-esque rallies and parades, awards presentations, and new uniform unveilings. It’s also not uncommon for schools to feature performances – this year saw a choreographed dance from the Georgetown women’s basketball team, French Montana rapping at St. John’s, and singer Drake’s participation in Kentucky’s shoot-around – and fight songs and pump-up speeches from coaches and guest stars (like UConn alum Ray Allen, who spoke at his alma mater’s event this past October 17th) are common.

At this stage of the game, every school’s basketball season is full of possibilities. Expectations and optimism are high. The excitement generated around this event is a great marketing vehicle and recruiting tool. Many programs will invite top high school prospects who are still undecided to attend their events, letting the flash and class of the production sell their program. Few high school seniors have played in front of large crowds before, so to expose them to the smoke machines and light shows that often come along with Midnight Madness can evoke an emotional response.

Likewise for the universities’ student bodies, having unique activities and events surrounding the basketball program ignites excitement. Many universities nationwide, even some of the most popular programs, have been struggling in recent years to maintain student attendance at their sporting events. However, featuring activities like a 3-point contest in which non-athletes can compete, games and giveaways akin to TV time-out promotions (which can be presented by sponsors, generating revenue) or celebrity-studded non-basketball events (concerts, etc.) helps foster connections between students and their school’s programs.

  • Midnight Madness events can run throughout October, but here are a few of the fun goings-on seen around the country so far this month:
  • Mercer’s Ike Nwamu showing off his dunking skills.
  • Rapper Drake with Kentucky.
  • UConn’s fantastic celebration, plus some social media pictures from around the country.

Like what you see from blog author Erika Gunerman? Let us know at @turnkeysports!