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A CIAA party by any other name
Promoters drop the tournament name and the show goes on
Published Thursday, February 27, 2014
by Michaela L. Duckett

CIAA tournament week has come to be just as popular for its parties as it is for its basketball. In some circles, the parties are more popular. While that may not be an issue for the estimated 200,000 fans who are expected to attend, it concerns the CIAA’s commissioner.

Last year when Jacqie Carpenter took over the league, she made it clear that she wanted the focus to be on the games and not the parties. She also put party promoters and vendors on notice that if they used the CIAA’s name or logo without permission, they would be hearing from her legal team.

And that’s exactly what happened when the CIAA filed a federal lawsuit in February 2013 against several promoters and vendors who were charged with using the athletic conference’s name to hype non-sanctioned events and products.

“If somebody was attaching your name and not using it for things that are healthy for your family, what would you do?” said Carpenter during a press conference last year. “We have a brand that’s our family brand and if you want to use it, just go through the right process of using it… It’s our job to protect our brand.”

Her point was made. This year, promoters and event planners are exercising much more caution in getting the word out about their events. Some are referring to the conference as the “CI” and using phrases like “happening during tournament week,” while others are refraining from making any reference to the CIAA whatsoever.

Jina O’Neill of Parties with A Cause, an event planning service that specializes in fundraisers for nonprofit organizations, said her team has chosen to do the latter.

“It’s just safer,” she said. “You have to be careful because they will come after you. You will get sued. They are not playing games.”

For the past three years, Parties with a Cause has held a networking event during the CIAA on Thursday night to benefit one of its clients, The Prodigal Son Foundation. The event is being held this year at the Charlotte Trolley Museum.

“The last two years, we called it the ‘tournament edition,’ just to let people know that it was going on during the CIAA tournament,” said O’Neill. “We made the decision this year to take ‘tournament edition’ or any kind of affiliation with CIAA out altogether. It’s the third year so hopefully people will realize that it is happening during CIAA.”

O'Neill adds that removing all references to the tournament has not caused any issues in promoting her event. RSVPs are actually up this year, but there is no indication that the increase has anything to do with the name change.

Other organizers who are involved in hosting events during CIAA shared similar experiences.

“Most people already know when the CIAA is coming to town so whether promoters mention it or not, it really doesn’t make a difference,” said DJ C-Robb of Charlotte, who has been active on the CIAA party scene for more than five years.

C-Rob also said that he has noticed the buzz around CIAA week parties is growing. Each year, more non-sanctioned events are held, and the roster of celebrities coming to town continues to grow.

“I can’t think of a celebrity that’s hot right now that won’t be in the city during CIAA, unless they are like a Beyoncé or Jay Z,” said C-Rob. “When we think of CIAA, we think of parties, which isn’t necessarily a good thing for the tournament itself… It’s been overshadowed by the parties. When people come in, they don’t always attend the games. Many of them just attend the parties.”


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