SBJ/20100621/This Week's News

The lost Citi: Rose Bowl sponsor out

The Granddaddy Of Them All is looking for a new sugar daddy. Citi is out as presenting sponsor of the Rose Bowl after a seven-year run supporting college football’s most august bowl game.

Citi’s decision not to renew its deal mainly was based on flexibility and price, sources said. One of the main reasons why it decided to drop the game is because of ESPN’s restrictions over when and where it would spend its money as the Rose Bowl’s lead sponsor.

ESPN has taken over selling all marketing and advertising inventory around the BCS game under its four-year, $495 million deal to carry BCS games through January 2014. ESPN has been in the market for four months selling a new package for the four BCS games.

In the new package, the title sponsorship is billed as a seasonlong college football package, but Citi complained that it was weighed down with more BCS ad inventory than it wanted.

Meanwhile, sources said AT&T, the first presenting sponsor of the Rose Bowl 11 years ago, is looking at the package.

Since 2004, the game in Pasadena has been known
as “The Rose Bowl presented by Citi.”

ESPN’s packages for BCS games have generally been shy of $20 million a year — a price that is around 33 percent higher than Fox’s rate last year (though, unlike ESPN, Fox didn’t seek full-season commitments).

Earlier this year, FedEx dropped its Orange Bowl title sponsorship after 21 years, the longest reign for a BCS bowl game title sponsor. All indications are that Allstate is renewing its deal with the Sugar Bowl. ESPN remains in discussions with Tostitos for the Fiesta Bowl.

Some thought the reshuffling of the college conferences (see related story) may be delaying the sale of these large BCS packages, as marketers waited to see what the new football landscape will look like.

Others cautioned that a full economic recovery has not been achieved, especially by categories like Citi’s battered financial services sector.

“Buyers at that level covet certainty,” said David Grant, a principal at Velocity/Team Epic, which serviced the FedEx Orange Bowl title sponsorship. “Uncertainty means risk, and there aren’t many companies coming out of a recession buying that.”

The Rose Bowl was first played in 1902, beginning the tradition of New Year’s Day football championships. It has been less sponsor-friendly than the other BCS games, which have opted for title sponsors like the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, the FedEx Orange Bowl and the Allstate Sugar Bowl.

In 1999, AT&T took the first lead sponsorship — a presenting sponsorship. Sony PlayStation was the next presenting sponsor, until Citi took over. Since 2004, the game has been presented as “The Rose Bowl presented by Citi.”

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