ESPN, Marvel Team Up for ‘Wakanda Forever,’ HBCU Football Challenge Kickoff
Sports fans should prepare for a team-up that puts comic book crossovers to shame. In celebration of the upcoming “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” feature film, ESPN is joining forces with Marvel to bring superhero stylings to the 2022 MEAC/SWAC Challenge Kickoff on Saturday, Aug. 27. Howard University and Alabama State University will square off in Atlanta in a contest between two iconic Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) programs.
The sequel to 2018’s smash success “Black Panther,” “Wakanda Forever” will hit big screens around the world on Friday, Nov. 11. However, ESPN viewers can see exclusive previews of the film during Saturday’s game, both inside the stadium and during the national telecast. Interconnectivity among the Black community will be a focus of the event, using the fictional nation of Wakanda as a spiritual representation of African American influence throughout the Atlanta region.
The game presentation will begin with a special tease open written and narrated by award-winning journalist William C. Rhoden of ESPN’s Andscape, connecting the spirit of Black Panther’s fictional country of Wakanda to the real-life reflection of the city of Atlanta and the importance of HBCUs within the Black community.
“The upcoming release of ‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’ provides a unique and very meaningful opportunity to work with Marvel Studios to bring this first-look engagement moment to our fans,” said John T. Grant, executive director of the MEAC/SWAC Challenge Kickoff. “There is no better place than Atlanta, which we call Wakanda, and this game platform to integrate such an episodic moment with HBCUs.”
Watch the 2022 Cricket MEAC/SWAC Challenge Kickoff Promo
ESPN has been changing the way it deals with sporting events as of late, seeking creative avenues to draw in new viewers and entertain the ones already watching. Beginning with its “ManningCast” specials tied to “Monday Night Football” games that skyrocketed in popularity, the sports network sought other avenues for drawing eyeballs to games through alternative channels and programming.
The worldwide leader in sports featured an alternate broadcast in April airing an NBA game using retro broadcasting graphics and looks from different eras to celebrate the NBA’s 75 anniversary. Similarly, sports fans can look forward to another kids-themed NFL game on Nickelodeon this year, this time on Christmas Day.
As sports continue to be a big driver for networks and streamers, ESPN is leading the way in developing creative ways to get the most out of their increasingly expensive sports licenses. Alternative and novel programming may be the best way to not only draw in new crowds, but to also build up a more invested fanbase for the future.
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