As a fan of NASCAR, I’m always quick to defend corporate sponsorships of sporting events and teams. However, those are generally a consistent sponsorship of a lengthy season—at least in NASCAR. So when it comes to sponsoring bowl games—and the three hour television window that comes with it—I wonder if the price tag is really worth it.
IEG has a great table of last year’s sponsorship costs at their site. In 2012-2013, bowl sponsorships ranged from $350K to $16M. Those numbers have likely not changed much in the past year. But I think it’s safe to assume with the exception of the BCS games, you’re looking at $500K to $3M to sponsor a bowl.
Cost means little to many of these brands though. Many are not necessarily looking for direct sales as they are trying to capitalize on top-of-mind- awareness (TOMA). They figure that the more you hear about their brand (regardless of what they are sponsoring), the more likely you are to use their product. This works well for some, and not as well for others.
So there is the cost and the strategy of bowl sponsorships. That only leaves one question:
Does it work?
I realize I’m not the target demographic for all of these sponsors (especially the regional or local sponsors) nor am I indicative of all purchasers, but here is a look at the 2013-2014 bowl games, their estimated sponsorship costs (taken from 2012-2013), and an analysis of my usage of their products and services.
Gildan New Mexico Bowl – $350,000
When it comes to activewear, do we really care who makes it? Isn’t it all about the style, color, and what logo/team is on the front of it? I can’t think of one instance when I chose one sweatshirt over another because of the maker. Sorry Gildan, but your sponsorship isn’t getting me to wear your products…intentionally at least.
Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl – $500,000
MAACO was last year’s sponsor, so Royal Purple is new. I’m familiar with Royal Purple because of NASCAR. So there’s a good chance I have bought one of their auto care products over the years. I am very intentional about buying from NASCAR sponsors. I’ve even stopped using certain brands because they have left the sport. Royal Purple is a good example of something I would buy over another product because of their involvement in NASCAR. But this isn’t NASCAR. However, their other sponsorship deals make me like their bowl involvement. They have evidently found something with sports sponsorships.
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl – $350,000
Anyone in the room not know potatoes come from Idaho? Anyone? Bueller? From the looks of their sponsor list, the good folks in Idaho just got a lot of smaller sponsors instead of one big one for the bowl game in Idaho. And sorry to the teams headed to Idaho in December. That doesn’t seem like a reward for a good season. Anyway, I eat potatoes. I guess the ones I buy are from Idaho. So are the boxed flakes my wife passes off as mashed potatoes. So, there’s that.
R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl – $400,000
R+L is trying. But they are not a major player with consumers in the US. Businesses and freight companies, yes. Consumers, no. And being from Louisiana, it hurts me that we can’t get a traditional Louisiana company to sponsor this. Tabasco? Community Coffee? Tony Chachere’s? Zatarain’s? Come one guys, represent.
Beef ‘O’ Brady’s St. Petersburg Bowl – $375,000
I’ve never seen one of these restaurants. There apparently is one in the Birmingham area but it was across town. That being said, all I know of Beef ‘O’ Brady’s is due to their sponsorship of this bowl game. If I were traveling and came across one while needing to find a place for dinner, I might give it a shot because of my familiarity to the brand due to the bowl game. So I guess on that level, and for the cheap price tag of this bowl game, it’s an effective strategy. Have any of you eaten there?
Sheraton Hawaii Bowl – $450,000
It’s rare that I stay in a Sheraton—so rare I can’t remember my last stay with them—but I don’t do business travel too often. I honestly don’t know why this would be a good investment for Sheraton now that moderately priced hotels all seem to run together. Those who do have preferences are typically booking certain hotel chains due to affinity programs…like I am with my Hilton Honors program. Sorry, Sheraton.
Little Caesars Pizza Bowl – $500,000
I love a hot-n-ready $5 pizza or wings from Little Caesar’s. And what goes better with football than pizza. This is one of the most perfect bowl sponsorships because of the natural tie in there. And the price tag is extremely reasonable.
S.D. County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl – $400,000
I’ll dig deeper into local sponsorships below, but this one is so irrelevant to me. Stay classy, San Diego.
Military Bowl Presented By Northrop Grumman Bowl – $350,000
Northrop Grumman makes drones. Therefore, no comment. I want to live.
Texas Bowl – $1,000,000
Our first 7-figure sponsorship and our first sponsor-less bowl. I’m not saying there’s a correlation there, but there’s a correlation there. Meineke was the sponsor last year. They aren’t the sponsor this year.
Fight Hunger Bowl – $1,000,000
See a pattern? Another million dollar sponsorship, another title sponsor gone. This time it is Kraft whose name is missing, which is a shame. I like Kraft. And I like cheese.
New Era Pinstripe Bowl – $2,000,000
This is why fitted hats cost $30 a pop now. Ok, maybe not. New Era is a great company and THE name in headwear. I like this sponsorship because they are connecting directly with their customers at an event when their customers actually are interested in buying their products. And if you’re reading this, New Era, I wear a 7 1/4 and my favorite team is LSU.
Belk Bowl – $400,000
I like department stores and malls. That is, I like shopping in them. But sponsoring a bowl game? I never have understood this one, but it’s a fairly cheap sponsorship. I only wonder if they got a BOGO special on the sponsorship.
Russell Athletic Bowl – $500,000
See my comments on the Gildan sponsorship. Same thing applies. If you’re not Nike, Adidas, or Under Armour, consumers really don’t care.
Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl – $2,000,000
The perfect bowl sponsor. I love it. And I love wings. I’m not too sure about the pricetag for them here though. They could easily “trade down” to a smaller bowl (like the Texas Bowl who needs a sponsor) and cut their bill in half while still having a quality bowl sponsorship.
Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl – $750,000
The next time I’m in the market for a helicopter, I know where to go. Unless this is some kind of tax write-off—and it very may well be—I don’t see the benefit for companies like Bell Helicopters.
Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl – $750,000
This is my hometown bowl game. However, I can’t really say that I’ve heard of Franklin American Mortgage. Did I mention that they are in my own town? $750,000 for a bowl game with SEC and ACC ties is a great price, but with a name like Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl, I question how much potential benefit they lose because of their long name. Everyone I know here in town simply refers to it as the Music City Bowl. That will likely always be the case unless the bowl name changes to the SponsorNameHere Bowl, like the Chick-Fil-A Bowl or Outback Bowl. I’m also surprised but this sponsorship, like R+L Carriers, because there are several other Nashville companies who could sponsor this. (And yes, I’d love to see a LifeWay Music City Bowl—especially for that price tag—but I don’t make those calls.)
Valero Alamo Bowl – $2,000,000
Because I lived in Texas for a season, I’m very familiar with Valero. If there was ever a gas station chain that fit a state, it’s Valero and Texas. If Valero wasn’t headquartered in San Antonio and already connected to the PGA Tour stop there, I’d suggest the Valero Texas Bowl to save a million or two, but this sponsorship works well.
National University Holiday Bowl – $500,000
I’m stunned by the pricetag for this sponsorship. The Holiday Bowl is one of the most prestigious bowl games for the Pac-12. They get the third pick from the Pac-12. That’s comparable to the Cotton Bowl (SEC #3) or Outback Bowl (B1G #3) at a fraction of the price. For the record National University is akin to the University of Phoenix but based in Southern California. So the reasoning here has everything to do with name recognition and growing their market share. I don’t know if it works for them or not, but they are getting a bargain on the sponsorship.
AdvoCare V100 Bowl – $400,000
I hate Advocare. I hate what they’ve done with their sponsorships in NASCAR, and I can’t stand multi-level marketing schemes. Now they’ve gone and changed the name of the bowl game. This used to be the Independence Bowl. Now it’s the SponsorNameHere Bowl. The price tag was $400K, but it’s possible that the price has gone up with the removal of Independence in the name. I hope so. If I’m going to have to put up with the Advocare pitches, they might as well get dinged in the wallet for it.
Hyundai Sun Bowl – $1,000,000
A Korean automaker and a bowl game in El Paso. Yeah. Makes perfect sense. I would question this sponsorship if it were not for the fact that Hyundai is the ONLY automaker to sponsor a bowl game. They are also very invested in college football and basketball advertising. I think it’s a great strategy actually. They are front and center with 18-22 year olds who will be graduating college and likely buying their own car for the first time. If you’ve been drilling Hyundai into their heads for four straight years, it’s a good chance that you’ll pick up a great deal of that business.
AutoZone Liberty Bowl – $1,000,000
I shop at AutoZone because of their NASCAR tie-in with Penske Racing. They are catering to their base here and, like Royal Purple, are probably seeing positive results. They’ve also got an SEC tie-in so that helps here in the south.
Chick-fil-A Bowl – $2,500,000
One of the more prominent bowl games and it has a price tag to match. Chick-Fil-A is one of my favorite companies and is so tied to the city of Atlanta, I can’t imagine anyone else sponsoring this game. I need to go back and research it, but are they allowed to play this game on Sundays?
TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl – $2,000,000
I like this sponsorship for one reason – timing. What better way to get your name and company in front of people as we head into tax season than to sponsor a bowl game? It’s a good strategy and the company is spending money like crazy in sports sponsorships. I really hope it works for them.
Heart of Dallas Bowl Presented by Plains Capital Bank – $350,000
This bowl is an example of what happens when there are too many bowl games an too many old historic stadiums. Played at Cotton Bowl Stadium (which is a dump by any modern standards), this game has a presenting sponsor, not a title sponsor, and features possibly the weakest matchup of any game this year (UNLV vs. North Texas). And tickets start at $50(!). If actual attendance for this game is greater than 15,000, I will be shocked. Needless to say, Plains Capital Bank could do much better.
Capital One Bowl – $2,500,000
Capital One does an excellent job with their sports sponsorships and is highly connected to the NCAA. It’s a perfect fit in their strategy and this is one of the more prestigious bowl games with a history (It is the old Citrus Bowl, founded in 1947). Other than the Alec Baldwin commercials, their sports sponsorships are one of their most recognizable avenues of marketing.
Outback Bowl – $3,000,000
Outside of the BCS games, this is the most expensive bowl sponsorship out there (along with the Cotton Bowl). Three Million Dollars. That’s a whole lot of Bloomin’ Onions, y’all. But in a competitive market like the restaurant industry, you have to keep your name in front of people. While I’m not wild about the price tag, I still think it’s a good strategy for Outback.
AT&T Cotton Bowl – $3,000,000
If you’re an AT&T customer like I am, you’re used to not getting what you paid for. So why should this bowl sponsorship be any different.
BBVA Compass Bowl – $2,000,000
A bowl game in Alabama sponsored by a bank based in Argentina. Yeah. Makes perfect sense. The funny thing about this sponsorship is that Regions is considered the “local” bank in Birmingham. Quite the guerilla marketing tactic by BBVA Compass, but it’s played in an awful stadium and the locals really don’t care about the game. This sponsorship is all about the TV coverage. However, $2,000,000????? WHAT??? Just an absolutely awful use of sponsorship money.
GoDaddy Bowl – $1,000,000
I for one am encouraged by the new image GoDaddy has been using for its marketing. Gone are the scandalous, half-naked ads. Thank you GoDaddy and thanks for sponsoring all you do in sports.
Rose Bowl Game presented by VIZIO, Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, Allstate Sugar Bowl, Discover Orange Bowl, VIZIO BCS National Championship Game
I lumped these all together because they are BCS games. The price tag on these is $16M-$17.5M, but that includes season-long ad buys on ESPN and a host of other required expenses. The only issue I have with these sponsorships is that the games, like the Cotton Bowl, have such recognizable names that the sponsors get lost most of the time. I can tell you who sponsors the Little Caesar’s Bowl, but I had to look up the Rose Bowl sponsor. There’s a disconnect there.
Next week, I’ll discuss the best and worst of this list.