SBJ/May 27-June 2, 2013/In Depth

New bowl game aligns with charity, aims to fuel social change in Dallas area

As bowl season began last December, USA Today reported the average pay of bowl game executives had doubled over the past decade to more than $400,000 per year.

Not so for the Heart of Dallas Bowl. Formed from the remains of the Ticket-City Bowl, the game takes its name from a local charity created to stage events to raise money for various causes, which means the staff is made up entirely of volunteers.


“I really want a royal blue sport coat one day,” said Kern Egan, principal at Dallas marketing firm Haymaker and a volunteer for the bowl game’s sponsor sales. “But we’re a charity.”

Last summer, Conference USA Commissioner Britton Banowsky, Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings and Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany created the Heart of Dallas Bowl in a matter of several months.

On Jan. 1, the bowl came to life, featuring Purdue of the Big Ten against Oklahoma State of the Big 12 playing at Cotton Bowl Stadium in Dallas. ESPNU televised the game, 48,000 fans attended, and the Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance received a $100,000 donation from the proceeds.

In 2014, the matchup will pit a Big Ten school against a member of Banowsky’s Conference USA. Beyond the bowl
Organizers and sponsors of the inaugural bowl used the event to highlight homelessness.
Photo by: Getty Image
game, the Heart of Dallas nonprofit organization has added a regular-season game, dubbed the Heart of Dallas Classic. Louisiana Tech will face Army on Sept. 28, again at the Cotton Bowl, as part of the Texas State Fair. All of the money raised beyond expenses will go to military veterans.

At the bowl game and for the upcoming Army-Louisiana Tech matchup, sponsors are encouraged to buy blocks of tickets and distribute them to veterans and their families, policemen, firemen and other city workers, among others. T. Boone Pickens, the billionaire Texas oilman and a major donor to Oklahoma State, donated $25,000 to buy tickets for Dallas city workers.

Dr Pepper, PlainsCapital Bank and Bud Light all signed on as sponsors. Egan said the game would consider selling title rights if a sizable offer came along, but said the Heart of Dallas name gives sponsors incentive because the game is identified with charity rather than a company. And the purpose is to be broad in philanthropy, giving corporate partners a chance to align preferred causes with the game, too. All the sponsors the first year kept the focus on homelessness.

“Our lead goal is philanthropic,” said Taylor Smiley, head of cause marketing at The Richards Group, which owns Haymaker. Smiley also volunteers for the bowl game. “Are we delivering on our mission of fueling bold social change in Dallas? Our corporate partners are thrilled because the game delivers marketing benefits and it drives social change where they do business.”

The $100,000 donation from the first Heart of Dallas Bowl will move 225 homeless people into permanent housing.
Ronnie Berg, president of PlainsCapital’s Turtle Creek branch in Dallas, said the all-volunteer bowl game staff and the drive of Banowsky led the bank to become a sponsor.

“This is a different bowl, a different mindset,” Berg said. And, he added, doing right and doing well ultimately go together. “Nobody’s going to get rich off this deal. … Down the road, people will say, ‘I’d like to do business with you, I like what you do in the community.’”

Erik Spanberg writes for the Charlotte Business Journal, an affiliated publication.

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