Branded Bowl Bloat

Now that the various Bowl games are over, it seems a good time to reflect on the blatant commercialism that they seem to revolve around. To start with, there were 35 Bowl games this year. 35! When did that happen? When there are that many, do they even mean anything? But that debate aside, the question I’m really struggling with is why the BCS is so willing to sell naming rights to every game out there, and in some instances, such as the Outback Bowl, create an entirely new bowl game. I realize this is nothing new–BCS has done this since the mid-1980s–but it seems to have gotten slightly out of hand. Let’s take a quick look at some of the BCS game names this past year.

Tostitos Fiesta BowlTostito’s Fiesta Bowl – this sponsorship has been around since 1996 and actually makes some of the most sense out of all of them. For a while, there were just a few of these for the oldest Bowl games: Orange Bowl, Rose Bowl, Sugar Bowl, Cotton Bowl, and the Sun Bowl.


But times changed within the BCS and eventually they ended up with names like…

Beef O Bradys BowlBeef ‘O’ Brady Bowl – Who or what exactly is Beef ‘O’ Brady? And why does he get a bowl? (My curiosity piqued, I checked this one out. Turns out “Beef’s,” as it’s known, is a chain restaurant specializing in buffalo wings with 213 locations in the Southeast US and a few more in Saudi Arabia. This is pretty interesting because there was also a Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl this year.)



…and it keeps going… Gator Bowl – I question not only the naming of this company itself, but of it being allowed to have naming rights to the Bowl game which they’ve had for the last two years. In light of tragic events at Virginia Tech, Columbine, and most recently in Newtown, Connecticut why should any Bowl game be allowed to have “Slayer” in the name, regardless of who the high bidder was? This one seems to lack sound judgment from the BCS and the company itself. Bowl – This Bowl game wins the prize of being the sexiest, even though they’re an Internet domain registrar and Website hosting company. Borrowing on the awareness of their racy Super Bowl ads and Danica Patrick as a sponsor, they may seem like a good match for college football in much the same way Bud Light would be a good match. That doesn’t mean it should be promoted.

. . . And then we have a game where using a short and catchy name was completely eschewed . . .

Poinsettia-Bowl San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl (whew!)


But there’s one out there that I think is on the leading edge of what we might start to see in the future: naming and messaging in the title. The winner of that one is:

KraftFightHungerBowlKraft Fight Hunger Bowl

They got a two-for-one deal with the BCS on that name, including the Kraft name and a call to action promoting their community efforts. Fight Hunger! It’s different, at least, and it’s memorable. What’s good about it, though, is that Kraft followed through with it. It wasn’t just a fluff name patting themself on their own collective back. They donated one meal for every ticket sold to the game, which amounted to about 100,000 meals to three San Francisco Bay area charities.

My point in all of this (believe it or not, there is one in here somewhere) is that while branding is critical to the success of a company (see Sarah’s post a few weeks ago), you can indeed have too much of a good thing. It’s a somewhat synergistic effect that with 35 BCS Bowl games all branded with company names right in the game title, you simply get fed up. You stop paying attention; there’s just simply too much clutter and chatter. Names, taglines, logos all start to meld together when 35 heavily branded games are heaved upon you in just a few weeks’ time.

With companies forking over handsome sums of money to brand a game, what’s their ROI? Is it worth branding exposure alone if those people exposed to the message don’t act on it? I question this, especially if it’s a one-and-done deal. Look at the companies that no longer sponsor Bowl games–Pacific Life Insurance, various car companies, Champs Sports–and you have to wonder a little why they no longer sponsor. Too expensive? Outbid? Not enough ROI to justify the expenditure? My suspicion is the latter.

And what about those companies who brand a game that’s seen by an audience (you and me) where you wouldn’t actually buy anything from them, maybe ever, such as Northrop Grumman which provides defense systems to the military. Not exactly B to C.

Allstate has been branding various college games for a while (field goal nets, for example), so they have a continual presence. But San Diego County Credit Union? R+L Carriers? Some of these have been sponsors for a few years, but what other time do we hear from them, or even about them?

Eventually, after this deluge of branding and awkward Bowl names you’ll never remember, you get fed up. You start turning on the brands, resenting them and their commercialization of a college football game, no less, and by the time the buzzer sounds in the last game, you’re done.

At least for another year.

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