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Exclusive: Bowl Games Prep National Sponsorship Platform

Bowl games put aside differences to secure incremental sponsorship revenue; category exclusivity, competitive issues could hinder program rollout.

In what will likely have a major impact on the way sponsorships are bought and sold in college football, the Football Bowl Assn. is developing a national sponsorship platform around post-season games.

The FBA—which represents the country’s 35 bowl games—plans to have the program up and running for the 2012 season.

The association is developing the platform by aggregating the games into a one-stop source for national bowl game sponsorships.

“College football is the second-most popular sport in the country behind pro football, and it does not have a national platform. We want to have a conversation about national partnerships that can add value to college football and our partners,” said Steve Hogan, CEO of Florida Citrus Sports, a nonprofit that owns and operates the Capital One Bowl and Champs Sports Bowl.

Hogan, who serves as FBA vice chairman, is spearheading the sponsorship initiative on behalf of the association.

The program is designed to help bowl games access national marketing budgets. While most games work with national brands, the majority of deals are with local or regional offices, not corporate headquarters.

“Outside of title sponsors, most games don’t have many, if any, conversations with national sponsors,” Hogan said. “That’s a real frustration.”

The initiative is notable based on the level of cooperation between the games, most of which have historically viewed each other as adversaries in terms of ticket sales, team recruitment and status in the bowl game hierarchy.

“For years the industry has operated in silos. We come together once a year to talk about best practices, but everyone is protective of their turf. After many years of beating this idea into the ground we said ‘Why not?’ If we can aggregate inventory, we can lift all boats.”

In addition to rights to game logos, hospitality and other traditional sponsorship assets, Hogan envisions the program including social media and inclusion in events that occur in conjunction with each game.

“There is a lot of inventory before the kickoff that can be monetized.”

The FBA last year created a committee to explore the viability of a national sponsorship platform. The committee continues to work with member games as well as athletic conferences, ESPN and other stakeholders to determine how the program will be structured and how everyone can benefit.

“The Bowl Championship Series is a big part of the equation. Everyone needs to be comfortable with what we’re doing,” Hogan said.

The FBA plans to hire a third-party sponsorship sales agency to help refine and sell the program, said Hogan. The FBA has already met with several agencies to gain feedback on the initiative, he said.

The association is working with each game to secure the right to sell cosponsorship packages. The FBA plans to secure those rights by buying out contracts or waiting for existing deals to lapse.

“We want to clear and aggregate the space under title sponsor,” said Hogan, noting that the FBA has conducted extensive research to identify existing sponsors and open categories.

“There is less category conflict than you would think.”

While the program has momentum, it still must gain approval from the FBA executive committee to move forward. The committee is expected to sign off on the initiative within the next few months, Hogan said.

“The train has moved down the track, but by no means are we pulling into the station. We have a lot or riders to pick and have conversations with, but hopefully we’ll be able to go to market in 2012.”

Each game will be able to opt in or out of the program, he added.

Florida Citrus Sports, Tel: 407/423-2476

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The Industry’s Take On A National Bowl Game Platform

While they acknowledge the inherent challenges in developing a national bowl game platform, most sponsorship veterans contacted by IEG SR applaud the Football Bowl Assn.’s new program.

“I’m a big believer in aggregation. Instead of doing ten-plus deals, a sponsor can achieve scale through one-stop shopping,” said Kevin Adler, president of Engage Marketing, an agency that represents both brand-side marketers and rightsholders.

In addition to providing one-stop shopping, the program could potentially help reduce clutter by drawing a core group of companies that are dedicated to supporting and activating college football, sources said.

Rights to the collective bowl game logos also could add value to sponsorship packages.

“Pageantry and history is a consistent story across all bowl games. That is a platform they may be able to exploit,” said Dan Jones, senior vice president of sponsorship and event marketing with Intersport, a sponsorship agency that manages Taco Bell Corp.’s BCS program.

Engage Marketing, Tel: 312/981-3800
Intersport, Tel: 312/661-0616

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