The league was certified by ByBlack, the U.S. Black Chamber of Commerce, as a Black-owned and operated business in October.
January 31, 2023 | By Erika Wheless
Ice Cube is pitching advertisers on his Big3 professional basketball league and positioning it as an opportunity for brands to up investment in diverse-owned properties.
The half-court, 3-on-3 professional basketball league is gearing up for its sixth season this summer. In October 2022, Big3 became the first professional sports league to be certified by ByBlack, the U.S. Black Chamber of Commerce, as a Black-owned and operated business. The certification made it a potential partner for brands that had pledged to increase or dedicate ad dollars to minority-owned media companies in response to the murder of George Floyd in May 2020.
During a recent presentation hosted by Omnicom Media Group, Ice Cube and his business partner Jeff Kwatinetz shared the story of the league, the audience marketers could reach, and how it caters to advertisers, including a fast response time.
“The access to our athletes, coaches, Cube, and our team, and the speed at which we can turn it around— clients and advertisers are not going to get that in any entertainment vehicle,” said Nikki Ambrifi, VP of sales for Big3. Last season, for instance, the league said it closed an ad deal on a Friday, and eight days later had a custom 30-second spot featuring a voiceover by Ice Cube on air. The team handles all of the league’s TV ad inventory, not CBS, as well as connecting brands to the league’s athletes.
“That’s better than most leagues, who tell you what you can get and you have to take it or leave it,” said Ice Cube. “But we want to do the cool stuff that moves the needle for our partners.”
Kwatinetz added that the league sees itself as being more entrepreneurial when it comes to accommodating specific advertiser needs. “We like to think of ourselves as a whiteboard when it comes to sponsors,” he said. “We can be flexible—from experiential to broadcast.”
The Big3 says its nine-week season, which has aired on CBS since 2019, reaches an audience that is often overlooked in the summer—basketball fans. “I love football and basketball and felt like a lot of fans like me had to hibernate in the summer,” Ice Cube said. The league, citing Nielsen data, said last season that it averaged 515,000 viewers on its CBS broadcasts (for comparison, MLS averaged 343,000 viewers last season, though the MLS had more national games.) Almost 35% of Big3’s viewers were aged 25 to 54 years old, 44% were female, and 50% were non-white, the league said.
The Big3 also has two female coaches and a Black commissioner in former player Clyde Drexler; the NBA, NHL, MLB and NFL, widely regarded as the major professional sports leagues in North America, do not feature female head coaches or a Black commissioner.
Big3 sponsors have included Adidas, Toyota, Walmart, Burger King, Monster Energy and Microsoft.