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Corporate Sponsorship Is Still Strong For College Football's Bowl Season

NOEL KING, HOST:

The Georgia Bulldogs won the Sugar Bowl. The Oregon Ducks won the Rose Bowl. We all know about the big bowl games on New Year's Day. But less well-known games have been going on for almost two weeks, and there are more to come. There are so many bowl games. Here's commentator Mike Pesca.

MIKE PESCA, BYLINE: The bowl season started 13 days ago with the Bahamas Bowl - sorry, the Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl, which was sponsored by a municipality that is practically synonymous with the Caribbean - Elk Grove Village, Ill. A while ago, the mayor of Elk Grove Village was watching a bowl game - perhaps, it was the famous Potato Bowl - and he had a thought - not I would like to eat a potato but I would like to sponsor a bowl game. And so Elk Grove Village did, affixing the Bahamas Bowl with the town motto "Makers Wanted." The mayor claims it's been worth the $300,000 price tag.

Corporations love sponsoring bowl games. Take the Independence Bowl - sorry, the Walk-On's Bistreaux & Bar Independence Bowl. Now maybe you're saying - wait, I thought it was the Poulan/Weed Eater Independence Bowl - or perhaps the PetroSun Independence Bowl, the AdvoCare V100 Bowl or the Duck Commander Independence Bowl. And it was. The Independence Bowl has had 10 different corporate sponsors over the years. Independence comes at a price.

And what a game the Independence Bowl was this year. Miami traveled over a thousand miles to Shreveport, La., to fail to score against Louisiana Tech - a loss that left Miami with a final record of 6-7. Decades ago, only the best teams played in bowls. Years ago, it was only winning teams. Now in order to field enough participants in the Cheez-It Bowl or the Redbox Bowl, teams with 6-6 records are invited. Seven of the 10 teams that went into their bowl games at 6-6 have lost so far this year. They entered as mediocrities. They left as losers. Thanks, bowl games.

Of course, it's all but impossible for a school to turn down a bowl game invitation. Schools get paid to attend, coaches get bonuses to qualify, and bowl organizers pay their own CEOs grandly. The players, of course, get paid nothing. But what Pop Warner tyke doesn't dream of strapping on the pads to play in the Cheribundi Boca Raton Bowl or the Gasparilla Bowl - sorry, the Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl.

If nothing else, bowl game names double as a fossil record of American business. The Camping World Bowl was once the Blockbuster Bowl and the MicronPC Bowl - both now defunct. The Citrus Bowl - sorry, the Vrbo Citrus Bowl - used to be the CompUSA Bowl and then the Ourhouse.com Bowl, also both now defunct.

These names do bring brand awareness, though. I had never heard of ticketsmarter.com until I heard they were sponsors of the TicketSmarter Birmingham Bowl. I found a general admission ticket to the game can be had via the TicketSmarter site for $35 and change, including fees. Out of curiosity, I found a ticket to the TicketSmarter Bowl on rival site StubHub for $31 and change, including fees. In truth, I will not be patronizing ticketsmarter.com nor attending the game nor even watching the TicketSmarter Birmingham Bowl on television - even if it does offer an exciting chance to see a 6-6 Boston College team wind up with a losing record on the season.

But I do know that by mentioning TicketSmarter so often, I have justified the company's investment in a barely watchable football game that probably shouldn't exist. And you just can't put a price tag on that kind of publicity.

KING: Commentator Mike Pesca. He hosts the Slate podcast "The Gist."

(SOUNDBITE OF CHINESE MAN'S "ONCE UPON A TIME (INSTRUMENTAL)") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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