It's the most wonderful time of the year--for sponsors
It's December which means it's almost time for bowl season! Christmas is coming too, but bowl season is basically the equivalent for people in the sponsorship world--especially me. We'll get 41 college football games, each with their own title sponsor and activations.
This magical season kicks off a little over a week from now, showcasing brands from Playstation (Fiesta) to Bad Boy Mowers (Gasparilla Bowl). The sponsors for these bowls are much like the actual games themselves: diverse and intriguing in their own way.
There has been some push-back and concern about the number of bowl games and if sponsoring is worth it for a brand. With the correct activation and management, this inventory can be extremely valuable. However, as with anything in business, there is risk involved.
One brand that has effectively activated their bowl sponsorship is Outback. They are known each year to provide each team with an appetizer. Whichever team wins, that appetizer has a special deal the next day at all Outback locations. This activation takes the bowl sponsorship to the next level and has the potential to benefit everyone who has access to an Outback Steakhouse.
On the other hand, you could have partnerships that make less sense. Such as the old Bahamas Bowl sponsor, Popeyes. The issue was that the game was played on the island of Nassau in the Bahamas; where there wasn't a single Popeyes. This bowl's current sponsor is Elk Grove Village; an industrial park in Illinois. It still doesn't have direct ties to the Bahamas, but Elk Grove utilizes this platform to spread messages and ideas, rather than asking Bahamians to go to a restaurant they don't have access to.
The First Responder Bowl is new this year and has a unique and new idea of making the game about our troops and other first responders. In fact, on their website you can sponsor a first responder buy a ticket for them instead of yourself. Additionally, they are offering complimentary tickets to first responders. The title sponsor for this bowl is SERVPRO, a company that provides fire and water damage restoration. This is a fitting partner as they provide a service to their community like first responders.
The bigger and more important bowl games are often utilized by sponsors to increase brand loyalty such as Chick-Fil-A, Outback, and Allstate. These three sponsors of the Peach, Outback, and Sugar Bowl have activations focused on rewarding fans with their product because they were already well-known.
Smaller bowl games is where the real fun is as you get sponsors such as Bad Boy Mowers, RedBox, and Elk Grove Village. These sponsors will focus most or all of their attention on increasing brand awareness. I remember watching the Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl last year and the sideline reporter had a segment where he seated himself on a Bad Boy Mower and talked about the product. While it may seem silly, how many of you guys knew of the brand before the bowl game? Even the silliest of bowl sponsors provide an opportunity of growth and awareness that can be effective if activated correctly.
1. Bowl games provide opportunities for several companies from a variety of backgrounds to gain awareness and market themselves.
2. With the over-saturated market of sponsoring bowl games, it is important for brands to include great activations to differentiate themselves and stand out
3. If you're a brand interested in sponsoring a bowl game, we recommend picking one that's played in an area you do business in (sorry Popeyes).
I'll be paying close attention for the duration of bowl season for great activations and sponsors.
Have any favorite bowl games I didn't mention? Let us know on Twitter, LinkedIn, or Instagram!
Written by: James Campbell
James Campbell is a recent graduate of the University of Michigan with his B.A. in Sport Management. Throughout his time at Michigan, he has worked with Detroit City FC, MiLife Sport & Social Club, and USA Hockey. - @Jimmy10Campbell