SBJ/June 9-15, 2014/Colleges

Discover, Tostitos to end bowl title deals

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The new College Football Playoff is going to look a lot different than the old BCS, both on the field and off.

Two more brands that were closely linked to the BCS — Discover and Tostitos — have told ESPN that they are ending their title sponsorship of playoff bowl games. Capital One, meanwhile, is in the final stages of negotiations to fill the void at the Orange Bowl, and ESPN still is looking for a sponsor to take the Fiesta Bowl position.

Discover has been the title sponsor of the Orange Bowl for the last four seasons, but the bigger surprise is Tostitos, which is set to end its 18-year association with the Fiesta Bowl, according to industry sources. The Frito-Lay brand enjoyed one of the longest-running title sponsorships in college football, but recently it advised ESPN, the CFP’s rights holder, that it doesn’t plan to renew.

Tostitos has been the title sponsor of the Fiesta Bowl since 1996.
Photo by: GETTY IMAGES

Industry sources are not sure why Tostitos opted out, although the price increase on the title sponsorship could have played a role. Title sponsorship deals in the old BCS annually ran in the $15 million to $20 million range. Sources say that CFP title sponsorships are closer to $25 million a year, and ESPN is seeking six-year commitments.

ESPN would not comment on the moves or on any details of its sales progress.

The Orange and Fiesta bowls are part of the six-bowl CFP, which beginning this season will determine the national champion as part of a four-team playoff format. The semifinals will rotate among the six bowls in the CFP.

In April, SportsBusiness Journal reported that Northwestern Mutual would replace Vizio as the presenting sponsor on the Rose Bowl, a move that marked the first shift in bowl sponsorship positions.

The addition of Capital One to the CFP shouldn’t come as a surprise, given its deep relationship with ESPN and college football. The credit card division of the bank sponsors Capital One Bowl Week each December, while also sponsoring the bowl game in Orlando formerly called the Citrus Bowl.

That Orlando bowl sponsorship is expected to end once Capital One closes its deal for the Orange Bowl. Capital One had sponsored that game, which is considered among the most elite non-CFP bowls, since 2001.

Capital One also has a significant buy with ESPN through its NCAA corporate champion deal that gives it presenting sponsorship of the College World Series, as well as the Women’s College World Series, among other NCAA events.

Sources indicate that Capital One and ESPN have agreed on most terms for the Orange Bowl and they expect a deal could be announced as soon as this week. Byron Daub, Capital One’s senior director of sponsorships, is running point on the negotiations with ESPN. Ed Erhardt, president of global sales, and Rob Temple, vice president of sports management, have led the sales efforts for ESPN.

With title sponsorship of the Orange Bowl, which is played in Sun Life Stadium, Capital One would join a list of CFP title sponsors that include Chick-fil-A in Atlanta and Northwestern Mutual at the Rose Bowl, among those ESPN has announced. No formal announcements have been made about Allstate at the Sugar Bowl and AT&T at the Cotton Bowl.

Perhaps no title sponsor has been as closely linked to a bowl game as Tostitos, which first sponsored the Fiesta Bowl in 1996. That connection between sponsor and bowl reached a crescendo in the January 2011 national championship game between Oregon and Auburn. Just before Auburn’s kicker Wes Byrum approached his 19-yard field goal to win the championship, ESPN announcer Brent Musburger told the largest audience in cable history, “This is for all the Tostitos.”

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