NCAA College Bowl Games Renamed by Sponsors

Doing the College Football Bowl Sponsorship Shuffle
New names for old games: Three new corporate sponsors have acquired naming rights Photograph by PRNewsFoto/Russell Athletic

In 1997, when the Arizona-based Copper Bowl was rechristened the “ Bowl”—and billed as “the first bowl game to be sponsored by an electronic commerce Web site”—it touched a nerve. Sports columnists called the tech suffix “ridiculous.” To echo one cantankerous newspaper writer: “What next? A flag game matching sororities, sponsored by AirTouch?”

Be careful what you wish for. More than a decade later, the Peach Bowl and the Citrus Bowl have been replaced by the Chick-fil-A Bowl and the Capital One Bowl, respectively. The Humanitarian Bowl is no more—it’s now the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. Teams from the Big East and Conference USA conferences duke it out in the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl, located in St. Petersburg, Fla. Speaking of which, the Gator Bowl, hosted every year in Jacksonville, Fla., is now the Gator Bowl. And starting this year, the once controversial Insight Bowl (the “.com” was dropped in 2002 after the bubble burst) will be known as the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, named after the Minneapolis-based chain of sports bars.

Some fear the bowl market is getting saturated. “I understand the financial considerations of getting those [sponsorship] checks,” says Kevin Adler, president of Engage Marketing. “But I think some of these bowls devalue themselves with the type of brands they associate with.”

Regardless, this year marks the introduction of three newly renamed bowl games to the mix. What they pay for the title sponsorships is just as mutable as the ever-shape-shifting bowl landscape. “The agreements are always changing,” says Doug Shabelman of Burns Entertainment & Sports Marketing. “With the economy, you’re seeing these bowls and marketers getting as creative as possible. The marketer might pay $350,000 to be the title sponsor, but they’ll guarantee exposure in other advertising. It’s like a combination of marketing efforts. Everyone is looking to see where they can get added value.”

Here’s a quick rundown of the NCAA’s newest postseason sponsorships, as well as a rough estimate of what they paid for the title rights:

The Russell Athletic Bowl
Estimated title sponsorship value: $350,000 to $550,000

This summer, the Kentucky-based sports-apparel manufacturer Russell Athletic partnered with Florida Citrus Sports on a deal to be the title sponsor of the Orlando-based game through 2015. The previous title sponsor from 2004 to 2011 was Champs Sports. The agreement makes Russell Brands (no relation to this guy) the sole apparel provider for this game, the nearby Capital One Bowl, and the Fresh From Florida Parade. Last year’s Champs Sports Bowl, between Florida State and Notre Dame, drew 68,305 ticket holders and 6 million viewers on ESPN.

Heart of Dallas Bowl
Estimated title sponsorship value: $350,000 to $550,000

In 2010, the AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic was relocated from the Cotton Bowl, a stadium in downtown Dallas, to the gleaming Cowboys Stadium in nearby Arlington. Last year, the contest that took place in the actual Cotton Bowl was the TicketCity Bowl. This year, the game will bear the name Heart of Dallas, a new nonprofit group that will direct funding to a local homeless charity. The “presenting sponsor” is PlainsCapital Bank, “with additional support from MetroPCS, Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau, Omni Hotels and Hyatt.” The payout to participants is $1.1 million. According to an editorial in the Dallas Morning News, locals are pleased—mostly with the name. “Simple and descriptive, the name also carries potentially great meaning,” the editorial board wrote.

Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl
Estimated title sponsorship value: “$2 million plus”

This year, Arizona’s Fiesta Bowl, which had operated the Insight Bowl, announced that it had entered into a multi-year deal with the Minnesota-based sports-bar chain after Insight Enterprises, based in Tempe, Ariz., didn’t re-up its title sponsorship. The payout to participants in the game is $3.35 million. According to filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, it’s estimated that Insight paid roughly $2 million for the last two bowl games.

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