The B/R Chi 2020 logo.

The NBA world will be focused on Chicago this weekend for All-Star Weekend, and Turner Sports’ Bleacher Report is again putting on a fan-focused event. Bleacher Report has been focusing more and more on events over the past few years, doing six events in 2018 (including December 2018’s B/R Kicks x “The Drop Up” in New York City), several more last year, and then doing B/R Gridiron House at the Super Bowl in Miami earlier this month. Next in that line is their largest fan experience to date, B/R CHI 2020. The free-to-attend event will take place Sunday from noon to 6 p.m. Central (ending one hour before the All-Star Game itself) at the Saffron Rails venue in Chicago, and will feature a dual-level crystal court that will see basketball games, HORSE and dunk contests, and a performance from Quavo, plus exclusive merchandise and art and style activations. Here’s more from B/R’s release:

B/R CHI 2020 will be a free public event featuring non-stop hoops action, exclusive merchandise, art and style activations, and a first-of-its-kind, dual-level “crystal court.” Conceptualized in partnership with Victor Solomon, the custom court will serve as a transparent performance stage for all the action, culminating with a headline performance by megastar music artist – Quavo. B/R CHI 2020 will be open to the public on Sunday, Feb. 16 from 12 p.m. CST to 6 p.m. CST.

…“NBA All-Star Weekend is an opportunity for us to celebrate NBA culture and its fanbase as only B/R and House of Highlights can. B/R CHI 2020 will bring our brands to life and provide an authentic access point for millions of fans to engage with our content and get an experience they won’t find anywhere else,” said Howard Mittman, Bleacher Report CEO. “This will be our biggest fan event to date and it speaks volumes to our growing events business.” 

Here’s a rendering of that crystal court:

A rendering of the B/R CHI crystal court.

It’s also notable that Mittman’s comment above mentions House of Highlights, and it’s notable that that brand (the Omar Raja-founded Instagram channel B/R bought in 2015, which had grown to 7.3 million followers in 2017 and has more than 15 million followers today) has some of its own things going on at this event. They’ll be putting on the second-annual House of Highlights Camp Saturday at the Roberto Clemente Community Academy, with Bulls’ guard Coby White hosting that. Kenny Beecham (one of HOH’s rising talents, who’s taking on more of a featured role there following Raja’s departure for ESPN earlier this year) will also host a House of Highlights Twitter show from the main B/R CHI event space Sunday. Meanwhile, the crystal court will feature the following schedule Sunday (as per the release):

12 p.m. – Doors open

12:30 p.m. – McDonald’s Youth Clinic

1 p.m. – Gatorade High School Game

1:45 p.m. – McDonald’s Game of HORSE

2 p.m. – State Farm Dunk Contest

2:45 p.m. – MTNDEW, Ruffles: Chi-Town Showdown

3:15 p.m. – MTNDEW, Ruffles Ballers Ball

5 p.m. – DJ Performance

5:15 p.m. – Quavo Performance

6 p.m. – Event Ends

An interesting element with B/R’s use of events like this is that it’s not just about publicizing their sports media brands, but also finding ways to connect sponsors with their audience. They’ll have 13 national sponsors for the main B/R CHI 2020 event (MTNDEW, Ruffles, Adidas, State Farm, Metro by T-Mobile, Wilson, Tissot, Perry Ellis, Gatorade, Intel, Remy Martin, and Coors), the most for any of their events so far. And Little Caesars is also on board, presenting the House of Highlights Camp. Mittman told AA in 2018 (he was then B/R’s chief marketing officer, he’s now the CEO) around The Drop-Up (which he told Variety‘s Todd Spangler would make more money than the whole B/R Kicks brand had in its two years of existence to that point) that it’s important for them to find sponsors that have appeal to their fans:

“One of the things we really wanted to do when we built this was to make sure that we were moving forward with advertisers and partners that could add something to the experience and that felt organic and endemic to this world. It’s too smart of an audience to force-feed things in, so we’re pretty excited with who we’ve been able to select as partners.”

And that approach appears to be continuing, and at more than just the main event here; the B/R release mentions that the AT&T Chicago Flagship store will also showcase both Bleacher Report and House of Highlights this weekend, so that’s another nice piece of corporate synergy from AT&T’s 2018 acquisition of Time Warner. And B/R is focusing on offering these kinds of event-sponsorship opportunities as a way to work with brands on multiple levels, as then-chief brand officer (now chief marketing officer) Ed Romaine told Front Office Sports’ Adam White in December 2018:

“All content providers now are tasked with being a solution center for people who invest in them. Whether it is through media agencies or through client direct buys. Being a 360-degree solution for partners like Levi’s has helped us win business that we probably wouldn’t have been able to win.”

With B/R continuing to expand their events even further and adding even more sponsors to them in 2020, it sure looks like that strategy is working out for them for the moment. We’ll see where they take it from here.

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz is a staff writer for Awful Announcing and The Comeback. He previously worked at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.