SBJ/April 21-27, 2014/Marketing and Sponsorship

Northwestern Mutual lands Rose Bowl deal

Northwestern Mutual will be the new presenting sponsor of the Rose Bowl, according to industry sources, in a deal that makes it a major supporter of the new college football playoff structure.

The Rose Bowl, which will be played on Jan. 1, 2015, will serve as one of the semifinal games in the inaugural College Football Playoff this season, as

SBJ Podcast:
College writer Michael Smith and Executive Editor Abraham Madkour talk about Northwestern Mutual's presenting sponsorship with the Rose Bowl, as well as Alabama's lucrative deal with Learfield Sports.

well as in 2018 as part of the bowl rotation. In years when the Pasadena, Calif.-based Rose Bowl is not a semifinal, the game will feature the traditional Big Ten-Pac-12 matchup on New Year’s Day.

ESPN, the rights holder for the College Football Playoff as part of its 12-year, $5.64 billion deal, sold the sponsorship to Northwestern Mutual, which already has a large advertising spend with the network on its college programming.

Specific terms were not available, but sources believe the presenting sponsorship to be worth $25 million a year over six years. Title sponsorships in the old BCS went for $15 million to $20 million annually per game. The Rose Bowl is the only bowl in the CFP group that has a presenting sponsor instead of a title sponsor.

ESPN has been in negotiations with incumbent bowl title sponsors and prospects since late last fall. While not all of the CFP sponsorships have been locked down, industry experts expect the Rose Bowl to be the only one that turns over. Discover, AT&T, Chick-fil-A, Tostitos and Allstate are the other incumbent title sponsors on CFP bowls. Allstate and AT&T, like Northwestern Mutual, also are corporate partners with the NCAA.

Ed Erhardt, president of sales and marketing, and Rob Temple, vice president of sports management, are leading ESPN’s team on CFP sales.

ESPN also is seeking six to eight CFP official partners — separate from the title sponsors — across multiple categories, similar to the NCAA’s corporate partner program, sources said.

It’s not certain when ESPN will announce its new CFP partnerships. The only deal the network has acknowledged so far is with Dr Pepper, which was announced last month. The soft drink will have official status in its category with the CFP and serve as presenting sponsor of the national championship trophy.

Vizio had been the Rose Bowl’s presenting sponsor for the past four years, and it’s not immediately clear why it didn’t renew. But the emergence of Northwestern Mutual in the CFP shouldn’t come as a surprise. Since 2012, when Northwestern Mutual struck its NCAA partnership, the Milwaukee-based financial services firm has invested heavily in college sports. It recently extended its NCAA corporate partnership through 2020.

In addition to activation and advertising through CBS and Turner Sports during March Madness, Northwestern Mutual has taken an active role in sponsoring other NCAA events on ESPN. The firm, which works with GMR Marketing, is the presenting sponsor on ESPN’s broadcast of the NCAA volleyball, men’s and women’s soccer, wrestling, ice hockey, and men’s and women’s lacrosse championships.

Northwestern Mutual’s activation is largely predicated on hospitality events for its financial planners and clients. The company has 350 offices across the U.S.

With the Rose Bowl, the brand gets one of the most prestigious bowl games in an attractive setting over New Year’s. It also has been one of the most highly rated of the bowl games. This year, the game figures to have even more attention as it will be the first of the playoff games that day.

Conrad York, Northwestern Mutual’s vice president of marketing, oversees the company’s sports sponsorships.

There is no timetable for other CFP deals, but industry experts say ESPN could announce additional agreements at its upfront event on May 13 in New York.

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