Monday night marked the end of the College Bowl season, one of the longest, and probably last few, extended series of Bowl games as college football moves toward a national playoff and a trimming down of the games that lead to what is now the BCS Championship, which title sponsor Discover has paid a hefty price to activate against.
But what about all those other bowls and what is their value for title sponsors? Why sponsor a January game in Mobile, Alabama or Birmingham or December in Boise or Pontiac, Michigan? Is there a better way to send those dollars? Brands think so, especially when those bowls, no matter how insignificant they seem to the national media and the casual fan, still capture national media attention, philanthropic exposure and match the needs of the brand that ante’s up for the dollars.
Berkshire Hathaway’s Russell Athletic brand for example used the Virginia Tech and Rutgers matchup in Orlando, to not just court consumers, but to get a chance to speak to decision makers at a host of schools about their commitment to college athletics year-round. It also gave the brand a special tie-in to a Bowl and a city that may be in contention for a BCS Playoff game in years to come, a smart hedge by the brand for now against a future payoff. The Famous Idaho Potato Bowl may get mocked for its name, but for the consortium that grows and markets spuds to a nation of millions it provided a cost-effective and well controlled infomercial for their products to a core audience of consumers who also happen to be passionate football fans. It also showed a loyalty and give-back to those in Boise who make their living in the agricultural business, a good local investment with a national media play on ESPN. Will it make more people buy potatoes v. broccoli? Hard to say, but given the location of the game the fit seems pretty strong. While Chick-Fil-A ran into some issues with the company’s stance on Gay marriage earlier this year, they ran into no problems sponsoring the game between LSU and Clemson in the Georgia Dome. The brand got the chance to direct market to a host of cities where Chick-Fil-a does a huge amount of business, and they took their home city and turned it into a week-long celebration for all things about their product, a great way to thank the consumer and their employees while continuing to connect again with loyal fans of their product…like spuds in Idaho, chicken works in Georgia.
For anyone in the financial world, the turn of the New Year means tax time. So if you are an up and coming brand ,maybe you use the heavy play on New Year’s to exposure your url to a casual consumer trying to find a way through the fiscal cliff. Welcome to Taxslayer.com at the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville. Ads a plenty on TV and on the field, which the brand things gives them an edge over the Turbo tax and H and R Block spends that will follow in the weeks ahead. Might not convert buyers right away, but it got them in the marketplace. For GoDaddy.com and BBVA Compass, the two brands that titled the Bowl games AFTER New Years? GoDaddy’s spend may be curious since it was in Mobile, Alabama with a game featuring Arkansas State and Kent State, but it was in the heart of NASCAR country at a time when fans are starting to look toward Daytona, and it brought the GoDaddy marketing machine, led by Danica Patrick, to the city as a reminder of what’s to come. It also served as a good kick off for the brands usual strong campaign that leads toward their always popular NFL post-season spend. The game was also relatively unencumbered for fans looking for a little more college football, on the weekend leading into the BCS Championship. A little out of the ordinary for the domain company, but a good appetizer for their key spends on the horizon. As far as BBVA Compass, the European bank with its US headquarters in Birmingham made the event as much about hometown and regional support and branding than anything really national, but it fits in their continuing growth of activation that includes Houston Dynamo soccer, the Dallas Mavericks and on a larger play the NBA as well. A hometown bank that wanted to find a way to remind national sports fans of their growing presence but also needed to reinforce their brand messages to the community where they live.
Now not all sponsorships worked out great. From snow and high priced pizza in Detroit for the Little Caesar’s Bowl to no military ties in Washington for the Military Bowl to smaller than expected audiences on crowded nights for some earlier games, the system is not perfect. However for a brand that knows its market and needs to hit very specific criteria, the bowl season was not in any way a loss. What the future will hold with a coming playoff and the shifting of conferences is really unclear, but for 2012 at least, some of the “lesser” bowls may have delivered more for those who put up the dollars and their names. Those that hit their goals certainly chalked up a win for effort and activation in what was a really busy six weeks for the ever-growing business of college football.