Market Overview

Feeding The Crowd: Bowl Sponsors And The Search For College Football Fans' Attention

Feeding The Crowd: Bowl Sponsors And The Search For College Football Fans' Attention

On New Year’s Eve, college football fans will tune into the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl and PlayStation Fiesta Bowl to follow the trajectory of this year’s national champion.

A tone of uncertainty mutes the muddied gridiron as both the 2016 and 2015 champions return to reclaim the title.

But the winners have been predetermined, and they’ll emerge without even a grass stain.

These victors, of course, are the bowl game sponsors, whose logos rest boldly on the 50-yard lines for optimal market exposure.

41 Games,41 Advertising Opportunities

Northwestern Mutual claims the Rose Bowl, and Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co (NASDAQ: GT) capitalizes on the Cotton Bowl. Allstate Corp (NYSE: ALL) and Capital One Financial Corp. (NYSE: COF) seized the other marquee matchups of the Sugar Bowl and Orange Bowl.

In all, 35 games have title sponsors, including:

  • Bloomin’ Brands Inc (NASDAQ: BLMN).
  • Buffalo Wild Wings (NASDAQ: BWLD).
  • Hyundai Motor Co (OTC: HYMLF).
  • AutoZone, Inc. (NYSE: AZO).
  • Valero Energy Corporation (NYSE: VLO).
  • Belk Inc (OTC: BLKIA).
  • Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC).
  • Dollar General Corp. (NYSE: DG).
  • Lockheed Martin Corporation (NYSE: LMT).
  • Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen Inc (NASDAQ: PLKI).
  • Sony Corp (NYSE: SNE).

The Business Of Bowl-Game Naming Rights

A study of the 2013 postseason revealed a collective investment of about $100 million for bowl-game naming rights, the business effects of which are reportedly positive.

Major bowl games, which see sponsorship bids between $15 million and $17 million, provide greater investment returns than do lesser matchups, the bids of which range $350,000 to $3 million.

“Apparently, the higher attendance and television ratings for BCS games was perceived to offset the much larger than average sponsorship fees,” the research report noted.

Researchers also identified significantly lower returns for firms with greater market value, and they tracked no notable movement in sponsor stocks.

The risk of low returns prompts some advertisers to settle for smaller signage throughout the stadiums or on the air, where a fee of about $1.2 million can secure a 30-second commercial.

Viewership On The Decline

The study of bowl-game sponsorship found that recent decreases in viewership — including a 1-percent decline between the 2015 and 2016 fall seasons — have had little effect on advertising value.

“Despite declining average attendance and television ratings, sponsorships have not become less valuable over time,” the report noted.

Still, corporate sponsors are reaching smaller crowds than they used to. Twelve (12) bowl games in 2016 totaled 21.4 million viewers compared to their 22.4 million in 2015. This translated to a loss of 79,000 viewers per game.

The upcoming semifinal matchups are not slated for improvement.

Last year, the Associated Press reported viewership of about two-thirds the size of the previous season. The loss was attributed to the moved game time from New Year’s Day to New Year’s Eve — a tradition to be repeated Saturday.

However, the competitors in this year’s Peach and Fiesta Bowls have proven to attract crowds, which may bode well for hopeful advertisers.

Alabama played in four of the top 10 most watched college games this season. Ohio State played in two, and Clemson in one.

But Compared To The Pros ...

Still, corporations extend their reach more successfully by toting signs at higher caliber games.

February’s Super Bowl 50 saw the third largest audience in the history of American TV broadcasting with an average of 111.9 million viewers, not including fans gathered at public viewing parties. The Denver Broncos’ victory over the Carolina Panthers was only surpassed in viewership by previous NFL Championships. The 2015 matchup recorded an audience of 114.4 million, while 2014 saw 112.2 million.

Commercial airtime cost Super Bowl 50 advertisers $4.5 million per 30-second slot.

College Football’s Chance To Cash In

Sixteen (16) more games are yet to be played in the 2016–2017 college postseason.

Most notably, Clemson will take on Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl on December 31, and Washington will look to upset Alabama in the Peach Bowl earlier in the day.

The victors will meet in the College Football Playoff National Championship on January 9.

Image Credit: Carol M. Highsmith [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


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