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NCAA, Coca-Cola diversifies music fest lineup

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The excitement of March and the NCAA is high on the totem pole for sports fans. In addition to the Big Dance activities in Indianapolis, residents are anticipating the Final Four tournament, which will take over the streets, hotels, restaurants and local bars. The 2015 NCAA March Madness Music Festival will host Multi-platinum artist Rihanna on the Coke Zero Countdown Concert stage as headliner and organizers hope her appearance will lure a diverse crowd.

The Indianapolis Recorder Newspaper talked with representatives of the NCAA about why the organization and one of its top sponsors, Coca-Cola, decided to bring the multi-platinum artist to Indianapolis and how they plan to promote diversity on a larger scale.

How does bringing acts such as Rihanna help attract a diverse audience?

Rihanna is such a major name that she has a broad reach. That said, we anticipate that she’ll attract a very diverse audience in terms of a number of factors, which also include gender and race. Coca-Cola has had some very multicultural lineups over the years that has really helped the music festival become the success we see today. Coca-Cola has been partnering with the NCAA on the music festival for a number of years so they’ve become pros at getting the talent people want to hear.

How many people are you expecting?

With good weather, we expect the numbers to rise around 100,000 for the three days of the festival. When you look at reach though, the March Madness Music Festival has attracted hundreds of thousands of music fans to watch performers including Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, Fergie, Jason Aldean, fun., Tim McGraw, Keith Sweat, The Killers and LL Cool J. Other past performers include Sting, Dave Matthews Band, Muse, The Kings of Leon, The Roots, Jimmy Buffett, Ludacris, KISS, The Black Keys, Kenny Chesney and Taylor Swift, so the lineups have certainly been diverse.

Does the NCAA have any influence on acts performing in the concert? 

We have enlisted Turner Events to manage our music festival and to find talent that CCPs (Corporate Champions and Partners) would want to have for their specific days of promotion. We work with both Turner Events and CCPs to provide fans with something they can enjoy. This year, you’ll have the AT&T Block Party, the Coke Zero Countdown and the Capital One JamFest so not only do you have a fun lineup, but it is branded specific to each Corporate Champion.

What is the NCAA’s stance on diversity and how is it implemented? 

Inclusion is one of our office beliefs and the NCAA has an inclusion office.  Our staff works with our CCPs and Turner Events to make sure we have a diverse lineup of talent at the March Madness Music Festival whether it centers on music genre, the talent or the musical offerings. We’re also looking at the growing fan base and its diverse interests and likes when it comes to music.

When seeking a corporate sponsor, is the diversity of the company considered? 

The NCAA is a very diverse academic and athletic organization.  Our schools and our student-athletes are diverse, along with the cities where we host Final Fours, so we always keep diversity in mind with our initiatives, which includes our business focus. We look to align ourselves with companies that have a broad and national reach and that also have a strong brand. Generally our CCPs also have their own inclusion or multicultural departments so many already understand the importance of that focus. Our NCAA championships, student-athletes and membership base are diverse, so it makes sense that we work with companies that also share an understanding that diversity in all respects is important.

For more information on the 2015 NCAA March Madness Music Festival, visit NCAA.com.

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