Are Bowl Game Sponsorships Good Investments?

By Jim Andrews Dec 21, 2012

Are Bowl Game Sponsorships Good Investments?

To answer the question of whether a brand should become a sponsor of a college bowl game, you have to first make the distinction between title sponsors and other levels of partnership.

For the most part, bowl naming rights are media buys. This is certainly true for the BCS bowl games: Tostitos Fiesta, Discover Orange, Rose presented by Vizio, and Allstate Sugar, plus the BCS National Championship that rotates among those four.

Those sponsors signed season-long, multi-year, mid-to-high-eight-figure ad buys for ESPN college football broadcasts and the network threw in the bowl name affiliations as “added value.” (ESPN acquired the naming rights as part of its broadcast rights package and each of the sponsors also cuts a high-six-figure check to the bowl committee for tickets, hospitality, on-site presence and other local rights.)

TV advertising also is a lynchpin at the seven bowls owned by ESPN, naturally. For the other 23 games, if ad spots aren’t the primary reason their title sponsors are involved, certainly visibility is.

So bowl title deals should be judged for what they are—media and visibility buys. And as such, they are pretty good deals.

Although the BCS games require the writing of a big check, those deals combine a season-long, increasingly rare opportunity to reach affluent males watching live television with the only nationally relevant promotional platform in college football.

Audience interest and ratings are not nearly as high for the other bowl games, but neither are their price tags, with title sponsors paying between $350,000 and $3 million. (See our estimates of each game’s title deal here. So we can count those as a decent value, too.

Yes, it’s easy to look askance at games like the Beef O’Brady’s Bowl St. Petersburg, with its clunky name and this year’s match-up of Ball State vs. Central Florida. Although not many of us will be flocking to our TVs on the Friday night of a holiday weekend to tune it, the chain of sports-themed restaurants will still get good mileage out of a low-six-figure investment.

The non-BCS bowl title sponsors who earn the most out of their affiliation are those who can use the ties for a dual purpose—raise national attention for their brand while also demonstrating commitment to their hometown or key market.

Consider Belk Inc., title sponsor of Charlotte’s Belk Bowl and owner of 301 Belk department stores across 16 southern states. Its year-old bowl affiliation affirms its commitment to the city where it’s headquartered and increases its name recognition among an audience likely to travel to the South and shop in its stores while there. Or BBVA, an international banking brand that seeks national attention to support its expansion plans.

As for the other levels of corporate partnerships below title, deals vary in scope and price, so it is impossible to generalize whether they make for good investments or not.

The Football Bowl Assn. has taken the smart step of aggregating those sponsorship packages into a national offering represented by FishBait Marketing. (Read the IEG Sponsorship Report article on the formation of the national platform here.

The sales effort got underway in May and although no deals were closed in time for the current season, FishBait founder and head captain Rick Jones tells me he is “hopeful with numerous prospects for 2013-14.”


sponsorship strategy sports valuation bowl games


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Jim Andrews

About the Author

A 30-year sponsorship industry veteran, Jim is responsible for developing and sharing thought-leadership content based on ESP Properties’ groundbreaking work in the areas of sponsorship strategy, valuation, measurement, digital content, data-driven marketing and fan engagement.

In addition to identifying key trends and delivering his unique insights into the critical issues facing rightsholders and their commercial partners, Jim is the chairman of the Annual Sponsorship Conference, responsible for the program and speakers, as well as hosting and delivering the event’s opening address. He also is responsible for the company’s annual report and forecast of overall sponsorship spending, as well as its compilation of biggest spending companies and annual industry surveys.

A frequent media commentator and guest, Jim has been a featured speaker at hundreds of sports, entertainment and marketing conferences around the world.



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