The Orlando Magic hosted its 20th annual Black Tie and Tennies Gala on Saturday night at the JW Marriott Orlando, Grand Lakes. The formal-attire-meets-sneakers event attracted about 830 people, nearly 100 more than in 2009, a spike organizers attribute to the gala’s increasing notoriety in the community and the team’s success in 2009.
“Last year we were voted the No. 1 charity event by Orlando magazine, so I believe there was hype around the event, and the success of the team going to the finals [contributed to the increase],” said event organizer Tina Shepherd, manager of the Orlando Magic Youth Foundation, the gala’s benefiting charity. “People are excited about the team and want to be part of everything we’re doing.”
Sponsorships also increased this year with 27 companies signing on for the top-tier $6,000 sponsorship package, five more than in 2009. Shepherd offered additional in-game visibility opportunities to sponsors—Brighthouse Networks, Publix Charities, and Pepsi among them. At the gala dinner, top sponsors had the opportunity to dine with one of the team's players or coaches.
To better market the event, new gala-themed mailings to the charity’s contact list. “We tried to be more creative in ways that would catch people’s attention and [help them] understand the event,” said Shepherd in reference to the mailings, which looked like mini annual reports highlighting the charity’s work in the community and were presented in a shoe-shaped envelope.
At the gala, artist Rock Demarco speed-painted two portraits of Magic teammates Dwight Howard and Vince Carter during the dinner, which included a live auction and the Super Sneaks Competition, which awarded the guest with the most decorated sneakers. The night wrapped up in an adjacent ballroom, where organizers setup a game room with billiards, air hockey, karaoke, and casino tables that provided an opportunity for guests to mingle with the team and coaches.
Though final numbers haven’t been determined, the gala is expected to have raised more than last year's tally of $350,000.