SBJ/20100503/This Week's News

FedEx name will come off Orange Bowl

FedEx has informed ESPN that it will not renew its entitlement of the Orange Bowl, ending a 21-year association with the Bowl Championship Series event. The move ends  what was the longest-running title sponsorship of a BCS game.

For more than two decades as an Orange Bowl sponsor, the game became FedEx’s biggest annual hospitality event, with the company entertaining as many as 700 customers over three to four days in Miami.

While the game itself was important to FedEx, the company was not interested in a larger college football platform. ESPN is reserving bowl game entitlements for companies that buy a lengthy and more expensive college football package starting in September.

FedEx has had its name on the Orange Bowl
for 21 years.

ESPN has hit the market with the Orange Bowl’s title sponsorship and has begun negotiations with other brands.

“We are in active discussions around the Orange Bowl, which is a premier property and presents a tremendous marketing opportunity. FedEx remains an important client and we continue to be engaged with them in other areas,” ESPN’s president of customer marketing and sales Ed Erhardt said in a statement e-mailed by ESPN PR.

The network, which will be carrying the BCS games for the first time next year and is selling all sponsorship and advertising inventory, is seeking around $20 million annually over four years for a new title deal that includes ad commitments, sources said.

That asking price would represent an increase over what BCS title sponsors paid Fox for title sponsorships to its BCS game the previous four years, which was believed be in the high teens annually.

The Orange Bowl has lost some of its prestige in recent years because of lackluster matchups, due primarily to its ACC bowl tie-in and TV ratings declines. The Iowa-Georgia Tech game on Jan. 5 generated a 6.8 rating and 10.9 million viewers, the smallest audience of the four BCS games.

Orange Bowl ratings in BCS era
Year Network Matchup
Rating
No. of viewers (000s)
2010 Fox Iowa-Georgia Tech
6.8
10,879
2009 Fox Virginia Tech-Cincinnati
5.4
9,319
2008 Fox Kansas-Virginia Tech
7.4
11,958
2007 Fox Louisville-Wake Forest
7
10,655
2006 ABC Penn State-Florida State
12.3
18,557
2005* ABC USC-Oklahoma
13.7
NA
2004 ABC Miami-Florida State
9.1
NA
2003 ABC USC-Iowa
9.7
NA
2002 ABC Florida-Maryland
9.5
NA
2001* ABC Oklahoma-Florida State
17.8
NA
2000 ABC Michigan-Alabama
11.4
NA
1999 ABC Florida-Syracuse
8.4
NA
NA: Not available
* BCS National Championship Game
Source: Austin Karp, SportsBusiness Daily

The 2009 game between Virginia Tech and Cincinnati drew a 5.4 rating and 9.3 million viewers, the lowest numbers ever for a BCS game.

In 2008, ESPN acquired the rights to the BCS games for $495 million through 2014, starting with the 2011 games.

The title sponsorships for all the BCS games ended earlier this year, as Fox completed its four-year run of broadcasting the games. Renewal talks are ongoing between ESPN and Tostitos for the Fiesta Bowl, Allstate for the Sugar Bowl and Citi for the Rose Bowl.

As a shipping company, FedEx especially was hit hard by the recession and cut back on sports and marketing expenditures that were once routine, including an annual ad in the Super Bowl. FedEx has been absent from the ad roster at the last two Super Bowls, ending a 12-year run.

Over the past decade, FedEx consistently has been a top 50 spender in sports advertising. In 2009, it spent $51.6 million, placing it 48th among sports advertisers. It spent $45.1 million in 2008 and $51.3 million in 2007.

FedEx still holds league deals with the NFL and NBA and has several other sports sponsorships, including naming rights for FedEx Field in suburban Washington, D.C., and FedEx Forum in Memphis. It also has several sponsorship positions with NFL, MLB and NBA teams, including the Cowboys, Marlins and Pistons, as well as sponsorship on the No. 11 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series car at Joe Gibbs Racing.

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