Zelle Becomes The Official Payment Partner Of The Basketball Tournament

Kathryn Kuchefski
Jul 15 · 3 min read

The Basketball Tournament (TBT), an open-application, single-elimination tournament played every summer in the US since 2014, signed a one year deal with the digital payment network, Zelle. Zelle is a mobile banking app that allows individuals to transfer money to other Zelle accounts within minutes. Therefore, unlike last year, the winner of the tournament and the $2 million prize will not receive a giant check, but instead, an enlarged phone and the money transfer to the winners will be made right from the court.

“When I first played in the TBT Championship Game in its first year in 2014, no one really knew when we’d receive the money,” stated Justin Burrell, four-time TBT champion and player for Overseas Elite. “When I finally won TBT, and got that six-figure check, it was a little nerve-wracking to be carrying around so much money on one piece of paper. We’re looking forward to being the first team to receive our winnings with Zelle this summer, and spending some of it in the Windy City.”


Regional winners along with the winning teams top 1,000 fans will also receive payments through the new Official Payment Partner of TBT. The improved experience will be crucial for both players and fans. Not only will the new payment plan be more efficient, but safer than having to take winnings to the bank for deposit.

“When we think about partnerships, we want something that adds value to what we do,” stated TBT Founder and CEO Jon Mugar. “To make the payment as easy as possible with Zelle adds massive value.”

According to Mugar, the Zelle partnership in conjunction with TBT’s broadcast deal with ESPN reflects the popularity, continued growth and therefore increased credibility of TBT. The Basketball Tournament saw growth in almost every metric throughout 2018. Viewership on ESPN networks was at 4.3 million, a 19% increase from 2017. Additionally, live attendance increased by 51% totaling 19,646, and the website saw 876,682 unique users, which is also a 51% increase from 2017. There were also more than 1,046 tournament media mentions in 2018, which is up 10% from 2017.

Because continued growth is expected in 2019, ESPN will be featuring 24 games, up two from last year and ten will be featured in prime time. TBT also decided to designate a home team for each regional game, a decision that has led to an increase of more than 200% in ticket sales. The key has been tapping into local papers to appeal to fans in that area.

“We look for opportunities that embody what we’re trying to do — this partnership allows us to go beyond just the typical brand awareness where we’re just in the background,” stated Rose Corvo, chief marketing officer of Zelle.

As part of the partnership, Zelle will be woven into various marketing initiatives and features such as how much money a player stands to win and what they would do with their winnings.

Such integration has proved invaluable for TBT. Value-added sponsorships are critical to the success of both the league and its various sponsors. Puma, who is now entering its second year of sponsorship, has a unique clause in its contract stating that any TBT player signed to the NBA (there have been 25 so far) will receive a bonus from Puma that includes both products and cash along with the possibility of a potential contract with Puma.

“For us, it’s about finding partners who are willing to have a conversation about doing something outside of the box with us,” stated Mugar.

So, as we set to being play on July 19th, overall partnership revenue has increased 80% compared to 2018.

The Championship game is set for August 6th at Wintrust Arena in Chicago.

Instant Sponsor

Kathryn Kuchefski

Written by

Director of Marketing & Strategic Partnerships at Instant Sponsor Inc and Marketing Advisor & Content Creator at Success Series

Instant Sponsor

Instant Sponsor is a blockchain-powered global sports sponsorship marketplace that seamlessly connect sponsors and rights holders via a blockchain and smart contract powered P2P platform.

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