HHH Exclusive: Hulu & Cut lock down Miami with “Word on the Street” basketball activation

It’s no secret that Hulu is getting into sports. We’ve all seen Jimmy Butler and Caitlyn Clark in various Hulu commercials while binging March Madness, but now they’re taking it a step further with a local activation on April 10th. Hulu had this to say about the event: 

Hulu and CUT social media channels will be collaborating on “Word on the Street,” a brand new social series hosted by CUT’s on-air talent and featuring special guest, NBA star John Wall. Passersby will be given the opportunity to participate in trivia questions and interactive activities.
One of the first three episodes will feature a live activation, free and open to the public, which will be held in Crandon Beach Park in Miami on Wednesday, April 10th from 11am – 5pm ET. Attendees will get to play on a custom Hulu + Live TV – branded basketball court designed to split dramatically between old and new school styles. The custom court will feature John Naismith-era peach tree baskets, soccer balls, and old-school rules on one half, and on the other half will feature the highly evolved modern court and game, specially featuring Hulu-branded basketballs, a locker room and press room/lounge adjacent to the court inviting players to experience a “post game” press conference. John Wall will host trivia and games onsite and also will be available to play and meet fans. The other two episodes will be filmed at the beachside basketball courts in Venice, CA.
I had the chance to sit down with Abigale Smith, CUT’s VP of Strategic Partnerships for insight into the activation, her thoughts on Miami as a basketball city, and more about sports marketing: 
*some quotes have been condensed, or edited for clarity*

Brandon Di Perno: Hi Abigale! So what inspired this activation?

Abigale Smith: Hi Brandon! So Hulu does two large brand campaigns a year focused on their live television offerings, one in the fall and one the spring. This will be the spring activation and we at Cut wanted to work with Hulu to create a moment authentic to what’s happening in sports this season. I think basketball is the highlight of so many people’s off time, whether collegiate or professional. I’m a mom and my son is in Little Hoopers right now, and I think it’s just such a favored pastime that resonates with all of us as a classic, Americana sport. It felt really authentic to do something in Miami because the basketball culture in Miami is so ingrained here, and of course the city is such an incredible place in itself. Activating in Miami right before NCAA Playoffs just felt like the right moment to us. And Hulu agreed.

BD: Awesome! I’m assuming it’s no coincidence that this is happening during March Madness as well. Did you guys put thought into that beforehand?

AS: Yeah, absolutely! Our intent was to align between March Madness and playoffs and really create additional buzz around having the opportunity to watch those games on Hulu + Live TV. Placing our activation right in the center of these moments was a strategic decision to take the opportunity to expand and reach an audience who would be interested.

BD: Amazing. Obviously, there are so many pieces to an experiential marketing campaign like this. What have you been most passionate about in leading it, and what are there little things that have popped up that have surprised you? Has it been a passion project from the beginning?

AS: I really love the power of experiential activations. I’ve been in brand marketing for quite some time now — I was part of the original ComplexCon team from Complex back in 2015, 2016, and I really love when you can work with a brand and have the opportunity to bring that brand experience into real life to let people engage with it in a new way. It’s always so much fun to see the consumer or patron coming to your activation to experience that first hand. I think that there’s really something to be said around building community and doing something in a unique space. This is what we’re going to be doing out at Crandon Beach with Hulu, activating that community and building a custom basketball court from the ground up. There’s something really special about that, and I hope the Miami community will come and get to experience it for themselves on April 10th between 11am – 5pm.  

We get to do a lot of things with these sorts of events. We make incredible content created for socials, and we have a tremendous amount of fun across platforms and at the event itself. Anytime we get to activate on the ground and build something for the world to experience, it’s a really powerful feeling.

BD:  I know you touched on it a little bit before but why do you feel basketball has become so important to the Miami community?

AS: I think that Miami is uniquely positioned among cities. It has a beautiful landscape, of course, but also a really beautiful, vibrant culture and community of sports and sports fans — especially in basketball. There are some incredible things happening within Miami’s basketball community, and there was a unique opportunity for us to highlight that, bringing things full circle to activate in the community. I mean, it didn’t hurt that Jimmy Butler, who is also the marquee talent in the Hulu spot that you might be seeing on television and social right now, is a member of the Miami Heat and an All-Star talent, so I think there’s really a lot of synergy in activating in Miami. In between March madness and playoffs, it really just felt like all the stars were aligning to bring this event to Miami.

BD: You mentioned how passionate you are about experiential marketing. Why do you think it’s seen so frequently in marketing for sports, and why is it so effective? 

AS: I think that it takes us back to our roots. As people, we really love to be in community with one another, and the core of human happiness is connection. That connection can happen in so many different ways, but in real life, in an experience, in an activation, in something that’s new and exciting and different, the door is opened for education and inspiration and connection. Sports fundamentally are also about these things, and it’s in the pairing of the two together that further strengthens the feelings behind it and makes it so effective. Suddenly you have something that’s a once-in-a-lifetime or one-of-a-kind moment. 

BD: For fans attending the event, what takeaways would you like them to have?

AS: We want you to come and just take in all the content. Take all the pictures and all the videos. There’s going to be some cool bespoke merch onsite, and we’ve also got really cool custom basketballs and item giveaways. And of course, everyone should come play basketball! At the end of the day, we hope people can come out, have fun, and educate themselves about what Hulu has to offer on live TV so they can watch all of their favorite live sporting events. But really, just come out and have a good time with us.

BD: Amazing, and should fans expect more events in Miami soon?

AS: Absolutely. We’re going be here quite a bit this year. Stay tuned!

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