Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Bowl Games Abound

Once the college football season is in the history books, bowl games begin. Throughout December and into January, college football teams compete for championship titles in match-ups across the country. Within the past few years, many companies have bought the rights to sponsor these bowl games, including retailers and food and beverage consumer packaged goods corporations.

One of the first bowl games of the season, the St. Petersburg Bowl presented by Beef 'O' Brady's, was scrutinized for its low attendance. The December 21 game at Tropicana Field attracted only 20,000 fans, the lowest attendance since its inception three years ago.

As the bowls continued, Florida International met Toledo on December 26 at the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl. Until this year, the pizza giant wasn't the only one to host a bowl game; the Bowl lasted until 2010 when BBVA Compass took over sponsor duties.

With food and football going hand-in-hand, it's no surprise that restaurants support the college playoffs. From the Chick-fil-A Bowl to the Outback Bowl, the games provide a unique advertising opportunity for the eateries, which lend their names to the games steeped in athletic tradition.

Food manufacturers are also involved with post-season college football. Some of the sport's biggest games, the Fiesta Bowl and the BCS National Championship are both sponsored by Frito-Lay under its Tostitos brand.

Kraft Foods has taken the opportunity to promote a bowl game one step further, using the sponsorship to raise awareness of an issue with its Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl. The only game with a corporate social responsibility angle, the company will donate a meal to a food bank for every ticket sold.

Finally, retailers are certainly not left out of the mix. This year, Champs Sports hosted its own Bowl on December 28 and AutoZone took on the Liberty Bowl on New Year's Eve. Starting next season, the Meineke Car Care Bowl, held annually in North Carolina, will be renamed the Belk Bowl thanks to money from the Charlotte-based department store company.

Earlier this year, rumors flew that Reese's would take over FedEx's sponsorship of the Orange Bowl as Hershey made a bid to sponsor the game. Perhaps in the future, as this year's game was brought to fans by Discover.

How do you feel about companies sponsoring college bowl games: a creative use of advertising dollars or an over-the-top waste of money? Leave a message and share your thoughts!

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