As part of Vote Early, MTV Entertainment Studios’ campaign focused on bringing young, BIPOC voters to the ballot box in the 2022 Midterms, MTV partnered with the Detroit Pistons to host the Vote Early Game Day Festival and Halftime Show with Tee Grizzley for their game against the Atlanta Hawks on Vote Early Day.
With the 2022 Midterm election being highly consequential in Michigan, our strategy was to meet voters where they already are, at a highly anticipated Pistons game where the team debuted a fan-favorite uniform, to help them make a plan to vote early while celebrating the right to vote and the options to do so. Voting early can prevent last-minute problems, long lines, confusing election laws, or voter disinformation from keeping people from casting their ballots which is why our campaign and this experiential event focused on early voting.
Before the game, Pistons fans had the opportunity to enjoy live music with free food, beverages, Vote Early thundersticks and had a chance to interact with Pistons Dancers, mascot Hooper, local dignitaries like Michigan’s Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, and visit local civic engagement groups at an open-to-the-public festival in the Chevy Plaza outside the stadium. Attendees of the game heard also from star players such as Cade Cunningham encouraging fans to “Get in the Game” and vote before Detroit legend Tee Grizzley took over and performed during the Vote Early Day halftime show.
This project was a collaboration between two highly recognizable brands – MTV Entertainment Studios and the Detroit Pistons – coming together to support and celebrate our right to vote while encouraging people to vote early. We knew from studies on the 2020 election that when sports teams use their facilities to serve their communities’ civic engagement needs like serving as a polling location, everyone wins. Our aim was to partner with a team that was leading by example and the Henry Ford Detroit Pistons Performance Center which has routinely been used as a community receiving board (where votes are counted), was the perfect venue to create a fun experience that fans will remember while also building awareness of early voting options and encouraging Pistons fans to make a plan to vote. The strategy behind Vote Early Game Day was trying to meet voters where they’re at while also appealing to their interests. This project was unique because we were able to provide resources and get people involved in the democratic process through their local sports team during a highly anticipated game on Vote Early Day. This was a great opportunity to serve the community and celebrate our democracy..
The Pre-Game Festival was a key feature of this activation. It was just outside the stadium in Chevy Plaza and lured all members of the community over to the festival-like atmosphere creating a fan experience with music, free food, swag, a basketball hoop and the chance to interact with Pistons mascot Hooper or the Pistons Dancers. Once in the plaza fans had the opportunity to use a customized voting tool powered by Vote Early Day to make their plan to vote as well as to speak to leaders of local organizations such as the Detroit Branch of the NAACP, Voters not Politicians, Detroit Change Initiative, All Voting is Local MI, RISE, ACCESS, InfoVote, Project Clean Slate and Rock the Vote, all of which had booths set up in the plaza.
We wanted to keep that same energy going into the game itself, so the first 10,000 fans to enter were given teal Vote Early Thundersticks, aligning with the Pistons debut of the highly anticipated throwback teal uniforms, to help them cheer the team on and to distract the opposing team. A thunderstick even made it into the obligatory proposal moment on the jumbotron! Then to start the Vote Early halftime show fans heard directly from star players like Cade Cunningham on the importance of using their voice and getting in the game. The audience was inspired by these powerful, resonant messages from the players they love who are also key members of their community.
For the grand finale, complete with pyro-technics, Detroit legend Tee Grizzley took the stage with the Pistons Dancers and brought the house down with two of his most well known songs and closed out with a final reminder for fans to vote early.
Both the MTV and Detroit Pistons team considered the event to be a slam dunk We were successfully able to leverage the relationship between a sports franchise, its community and a highly anticipated game to reach, inspire and inform voters with an engaging MTV event that celebrated Michigan constituents' right to get in the game and use their voice to shape our democracy. The “Vote Early Game Day Festival and Half Time Show” was a unique fan experience that the nearly 20,000 attendees won’t soon forget.
The plaza drew in fans and visitors before the game with its lively atmosphere of music, food, giveaways, photo ops, and a chance to interact with Pistons mascot Hooper and the Pistons Dancers! Fans and local voters were able to meet with local organizations to get resources about how to vote early in Michigan, encouragement to make their plan and the opportunity to learn about other civic engagement efforts they could get involved in.
We continued to appeal to fans during the game through messages of encouragement to vote early from Pistons players and Detroit rapper Tee Grizzley who performed during the half-time show. Fans (and voters) were able to directly hear about the importance of voting and connect with players and the talent they look up to. Together, we’re proud to have played our role in contributing to record voter turn-out in Michigan in 2022.