On Thursday, September 15, I was fortunate to be one of the few people on hand to represent Quicken Loans at the press conference announcing our title sponsorship of the inaugural Carrier Classic basketball game. The 2011 Quicken Loans Carrier Classic is a first-of-its-kind event to be played on the flight deck of the US Navy Aircraft Carrier USS Carl Vinson. The Michigan State Spartans will play against the University of North Carolina Tar Heels in a rematch of their dramatic 2009 NCAA Championship game. But instead of playing to win a championship, they’re playing to honor the men and the women of the armed forces on Veterans Day.
One of the things that I noticed while meeting and speaking with so many of the people involved, that even though they are all fans of basketball, they are most excited about the fact that this game will be providing so much for the veterans and veteran charities like the Wounded Warrior Project and the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society.
And not only will the event coordinators, Morale Entertainment, be donating to these charities, but Quicken Loans President and CMO (and all-round nice guy) Jay Farner, announced that Quicken Loans will be donating $111,111 to the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society as well. As he made the announcement, I looked around to gauge the reaction of the guests – press, service men and women, sponsors and the like – and I could tell they had just as much pride and admiration for our participation as we do for the veterans we’re honoring by sponsoring the event.
And when both MSU Coach Tom Izzo and UNC Coach Roy Williams got up to speak, it was more than evident that their participation was clearly not about the game but the feeling behind it. Tom Izzo said, “The opportunity to give something back to those that serve in the military and their families is a humbling experience. (The game) provides an opportunity for life lessons off the court, including those about the real meanings of sacrifice and dedication.” I wrote it down as quickly as I could because it stood out so strongly to me as the real meaning behind this game.
It’s humbling to be a part of such an amazing event. So few businesses, and people for that matter, use their names and reputations to do something altruistic anymore. But to see Quicken Loans, and people like Tom Izzo and Roy Williams, do something for a cause they truly believe in, it inspires you to reach out and do what you can to help out as well. Even Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan will be returning to their alma maters (MSU and UNC respectively) to serve as honorary captains, and hope to raise some awareness for the importance of this event.
This isn’t game to help with publicity or marketing or notoriety or standings. It’s about revitalizing the meaning behind Veterans Day. It’s about reminding people that we need to support veterans and to recognize their bravery and honor their service.