The Worst College Bowl Sponsors

What do these companies have to do with football?

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The “Tostitos Fiesta Bowl.” I can live with that. Chips. A party. Football. They go together.

But a lot of the other college bowls are horrific-sounding concoctions that George Orwell couldn’t have dreamed up. The marketing geniuses who ink these sponsorship deals mainly care about just one thing—getting the corporate name in front of the masses. If there’s a particular message or product they're trying to sell, they cram that into the name too. And why worry if it sounds like self-parody? Football fans, they assume, are probably too thick to notice.

So with the sponsorship season coming to a climax, here are some of the absurdities that will be tripping across the TV screen:

The Chick-fil-A Bowl. (Virginia Tech v. Tennessee, Dec. 31, Atlanta.) Companies named after poultry just were not made to sponsor bowl games. This sounds like a family-style dish you might order at Olive Garden, not a sports contest. Back in prehistoric times, before corporate America owned college football, this game was known as the Peach Bowl. How far we’ve come.

[See why Tiger Woods will come roaring back.]

The San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl. (Utah v. California, Dec. 23, San Diego.) How cheap are these sponsorships anyway? Credit unions are known for being thrifty, so the Pointsetta Bowl sponsorship must have been a great deal. If prices keep falling, maybe local businesses will even be able to get into the game. I can’t wait to watch the Ajax Dry Cleaner’s Bowl.

The Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl. (Houston v. Air Force, Dec. 31, Ft. Worth.) If you really want to honor the men and women in uniform, just name the bowl after them, period. Don’t stick you own name in there and ride on their coattails.

The GMAC Bowl. (Central Michigan v. Troy, Jan. 6, Mobile, Ala.) Would anybody tune in to watch something called the AIG Bowl? Well GMAC is barely in better shape. This troubled lender has received $12.5 billion in taxpayer bailout money and is one of only a few big companies still limping along, unable to pay back the money. Somebody please explain how this sorry performance exemplifies the ideals of college athletics.

[See how free enterprise doomed itself.]

The Papajohns.com Bowl. (South Carolina v. Connecticut, Jan. 2, Birmingham.) Why the .com? Is pizza now virtual? Let me guess: If you go to the Web site, there are FREE COUPONS that will save you money and persuade you to order more pizza. Now that’s in the spirit of football.

The Meineke Car Care Bowl. (Pittsburgh v. North Carolina, Dec. 26, Charlotte.) Does every ticketholder get a free quart of oil? This sounds like a competition between auto mechanics racing to see who can complete a tune-up in the fastest time (and charge the customer the most).

The AutoZone Liberty Bowl. (Arkansas v. East Carolina, Jan. 2, Memphis.) If you’re like me, that’s exactly what you think of when you shop for car parts: liberty. Before long they’ll probably just drop that silly word altogether, so that it’ll just be the AutoZone Bowl.

[See 15 cars fueling the auto recovery.]

The Roady's Humanitarian Bowl. (Bowling Green v. Idaha, Dec. 30, Boise.) Good sportsmanship, which this bowl promotes, wouldn’t be the same without a corporate sponsor. And when Americans think of humanitarianism, the first thing that comes to mind is a Roady’s truck stop.

The Advocare V100 Independence Bowl. (Texas A&M v. Georgia, Dec. 28, Shreveport.) It sounds like a nursing home, but Advocare is a vitamin company that’s keen to promote a certain lineup of nutrition supplements. Maybe next year the game will be called the Advocare PowerShake Bowl or the Advocare SuperSmoothie Bowl.

The Outback Bowl. (Northwestern vs. Auburn, Jan. 1, Tampa.) Brought to you by Australia! Or is it Subaru? Or is it the steak house? Don’t worry, within a few minutes of tuning in, the announcers will have mentioned the exact sponsor about 20 times.

[See 8 restaurants on a roll.]

The R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl. (Southern Mississippi v. Middle Tennessee, Dec. 20, New Orleans.) If FedEx can sponsor the Orange Bowl, then this little-known cargo company can sponsor this little-known game matching two unranked teams. Maybe some day R+L will copy another FedEx move, and come up with a more pronounceable name.

The Rose Bowl Game Presented by Citi. (Ohio State v. Oregon, Jan. 1, Pasadena.) Sorry, but Citi shouldn’t be in any bowls this year. Citigroup is a last-place financial giant that would be extinct if not for $45 billion in taxpayer aid, and it’s still so weak that a recent effort to unwind a big government stake in the firm flopped. As for the Citi BCS National Championship Game (Texas v. Alabama, Jan. 7, Pasadena), couldn’t we get Goldman Sachs to sponsor that instead? The last time I checked, football was still about winning. The companies that sponsor it should at least keep up their end of the bargain.


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college athletics
  • Rick Newman

    Rick Newman is the author of Rebounders: How Winners Pivot From Setback to Success and the co-author of two other books. Follow him on Twitter or e-mail him at rnewman@usnews.com.