The city of Birmingham scored its first NBA preseason game in a dozen years with a big assist from a local corporate sponsor.
The Houston Rockets are scheduled to play the Memphis Grizzlies on Oct. 2 in the BBVA Compass Iron City Showdown, marking the first time the NBA has ventured into Birmingham since 2006. And as the title of the game indicates, BBVA Compass bank — which has its main headquarters in Birmingham — played a leading role in securing the game.
“BBVA is the total reason for this game happening in Birmingham,” says Chuck Faush, president of Faush Summit Entertainment, which is helping promote the game. “They have a longstanding relationship with the NBA and the Houston Rockets. They deserve all the credit for this event.”
BBVA Compass used to have a league-wide sponsorship deal with the NBA and still maintains close ties with several teams, including the Rockets. So early this year, company officials began looking for a way to combine BBVA’s Birmingham presence with those NBA connections.
“Birmingham is home, so we’re always looking for new opportunities to spur economic development and elevate the profile of the city,” says BBVA Birmingham Market CEO Andrea Smith. “It’s costly to bring an NBA team to your city. Without our partnership with the Rockets, I don’t think it would have happened. But we have that great partnership, and this was a way we could use that asset that we’ve cultivated to elevate our city.”
Gretchen Sheirr, the Rockets chief revenue officer, agrees that the partnership with BBVA Compass is the primary reason why the team is playing one of its preseason games in Birmingham.
“The Rockets have a very strong and long-standing relationship with BBVA Compass, and we are excited to bring Houston Rockets basketball to their home market in Birmingham,” Sheirr said in a statement. “We’ve continually worked with BBVA to create opportunities for our fans and their clients in Houston, and we are thrilled to extend these opportunities to the people of Birmingham.”
Approximately half the tickets for the game at the 17,000-seat Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex Arena had already been sold as of early August, according to Faush. A portion of the game’s proceeds will go to the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame and the Birmingham Athletic Partnership. In addition, BBVA Compass is fully funding a refurbishment for the outdoor basketball courts located near Legion Field in celebration of the game.
“So it’s not just about game day. It’s about reaching out and doing something across the community as well,” Smith says.