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Volume 21 No. 1


The introduction of the College Football Playoff, the addition of several new postseason games (including one outside the U.S.), and the continued expansion of the player gift suite concept have brought a new level of organized chaos to those who work behind the scenes in college football’s postseason.

SportsBusiness Journal’s annual listing and analysis of the gift packages provided to bowl game participants by the committees that host the games reveal that at least $5.4 million will be spent this year on participants’ gifts. That’s up 11 percent

SBJ Podcast:
David Broughton and Brandon McClung, SBJ's research staff, discuss the annual list of college bowl gifts.

compared with the expenditures of a year ago. In addition, two-thirds of those organizations will stage a gift suite or shopping spree in the coming weeks, up from half the committees a year ago.

The NCAA allows each bowl to award up to $550 worth of gifts to 125 participants per school. Schools can, and usually do, buy additional gifts that they can distribute to participants beyond that 125 limit. In addition, participants can receive awards worth up to $400 from the school and up to $400 from the conference for postseason play, covering both conference title games and any bowl game.

Gift suites are set up as private events prior to the game in which game participants, and often bowl VIPs, are given an order form and allowed to select a gift, or gifts, up to a value that is predetermined by each bowl, not to exceed the NCAA limit. Roughly half the suites take place in the bowl’s host city, while the others are staged by the game’s committee on the campus of a participating college.

The gift suite concept was pioneered by Jon Cooperstein to coincide with the 2008 Orange Bowl. Cooperstein leads the sports marketing division for Performance Award Center, a Carrollton, Texas-based company that serves as a broker between high-end brands and companies that provide gifts and incentives to their employees and partners.

Few are more engaged in the gift-distribution process than Cooperstein.

Following the bowl selection announcements this past weekend, Cooperstein had about 20 hours to ship, via air, the 1,000-pound, three-pallet, 80-box load from Performance Award Center’s 60,000-square-foot distribution center to each of the schools that will be playing in the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl on Dec. 20. Each shipment will contain the speakers, bikes, blenders, remote-control helicopters, headphones and dozens of other items that make up the suite. The bowl committee will host a gift suite on the campus of one of the participating schools on Wednesday and then will visit the campus of the opposing team on Thursday.

Cooperstein will continue on from there, with an 18-hour cameo at home in Tennessee on Dec. 24 the only exception. (“I’ll actually get to see my wife on Christmas Eve,” he said.) He’ll fly back out again on Christmas afternoon, heading for the Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl. All told, Cooperstein and his staff of eight will be traveling to approximately 47 campus and/or game sites during the bowl season, racking up “well over 100,000 miles” of flights, he said. Each stop requires assembly of a complete gift suite that must be unpacked and repacked quickly.

The amount of inventory Performance Award Center will ship has more than tripled since 2010, when Cooperstein’s crew had eight full suites that moved around to the roughly 14 sites with which they worked.

Cooperstein said the most-ordered item in last year’s suites was Southern Motion’s powered home theater recliner that has two USB ports that can charge mobile devices. Beth Loden, Southern Motion’s strategic accounts director, said the company shipped 1,500 recliners via last year’s gift suites. Last year was the company’s first appearance in the bowl gift genre, and it’s returning this year.

Beats by Dre products were the second-most ordered item in 2013, Cooperstein said, with the GLD Viper Razorback self-healing dartboard close behind that.

Of course, Cooperstein is just one of many for td> 

Southern Motion’s recliner was the most popular item in Performance Award Center gift suites last year, followed by Beats by Dre products and the GLD Viper Razorback dartboard.
whom the serious bowl business begins now that the games’ matchups have been set.

Lea Miller is the founder and president of Complete Sports Management, the operator of the inaugural Popeyes Bahamas Bowl, college football’s only postseason game played outside the U.S. Although the game’s location is inviting to the participants, and the gift-giving tradition is timely (the bowl will be played on Christmas Eve), there were some unique considerations to be made.

Miller said that rather than deal with the taxes, customs and tariffs that would have been involved with getting gifts shipped to the islands, or hosting a suite on-site, it was easier to host the events on the campuses of the respective schools.

“We knew early on that we would probably have to distribute the gifts on the mainland,” she said. “But in a saturated bowl market, the destination is the differential, and when the teams arrive, the Ministry of Tourism will be providing a Bahamian-style Mardi Gras-type experience.”

In addition to the gifts the players will choose during their suite visits, each Bahamas Bowl participant will receive an Ogio backpack and a New Era cap. (Popeyes also will provide the participants, via the conferences, tumblers emblazoned with its logo before the players leave the mainland.)

Like Cooperstein, Miller noted the need to work quickly: Just two weeks separate selection Sunday from the teams’ arrival in the Bahamas.

This year’s new bowl games in Boca Raton, Fla., and Montgomery, Ala., also opted for gift suites for their inaugural gift offerings. The other two new, non-championship game committees opted to negotiate with vendors on their own.

The Miami Beach Bowl, which is run by the American Athletic Conference and has a six-year rental agreement at Marlins Park, is providing players with, among other things, items from Under Armour, a top-tier corporate partner of the committee.

The Quick Lane Bowl, which is run by the Detroit Lions, will be providing each participant in that game a custom-made Fathead with the player’s likeness. Fathead is based in Detroit.

Including gift packages for players, cheerleaders, staff and VIPs, Fossil products will be handed out by 15 bowl committees this year, matching that brand’s total from last year’s bowl season. Sony, Trek and Xbox have the potential of being the top giveaways, as their products are available in nearly every gift suite.

While a spokesman for the New Era Pinstripe Bowl would not disclose the contents of that game’s gift packages, New Era officials said bowl participants will receive a selection of the company’s products.

Similarly, Goodyear Cotton Bowl representatives would not disclose the contents of their gift packages. Organizers of the national championship game also declined to provide details of their presents, but a spokesperson for the championship game said those participating players would not be visiting a gift suite — as the committee knows that all the participants coming to that game would have already had that experience at the national semifinal games (the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl) in the preceding days.

And when it’s all done, the craziness of the season always pays off, Cooperstein said.

“The bowls are not our clients; the players and schools’ VIPs are,” he said. “If the selection looks good, then the players, the administration, the coaches’ wives and the VIPs are happy — and if they’re happy, it helps everyone’s bottom line.”

2014 Bowl Gifts to Participants

R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl
Dec. 20, 11 a.m. (ESPN); New Orleans
Gift suite; Fossil watch

Gildan New Mexico Bowl
Dec. 20, 2:20 p.m. (ESPN); Albuquerque, N.M.
Gift suite; AudioSource Sound pop portable/mobile speaker; mobile phone charger and cord; Oakley Works backpack; Oakley Enduro sunglasses; Oakley fine knit beanie; cap; Gildan stadium blanket

Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl
Dec. 20, 3:30 p.m. (ABC); Las Vegas
Gift suite; Oakley Works backpack

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl
Dec. 20, 5:45 p.m. (ESPN); Boise, Idaho
Gift suite; Ogio backpack; winter coat; winter gloves; winter beanie; Big Game football

Raycom Media Camellia Bowl
Dec. 20, 9:15 p.m. (ESPN); Montgomery, Ala.
Gift suite; Fossil watch; cap; souvenir pylon; football

Miami Beach Bowl
Dec. 22, 2 p.m. (ESPN); Miami
Under Armour sunglasses; Under Armour cap; Oakley Halifax backpack; electronics product

Boca Raton Bowl
Dec. 23, 6 p.m. (ESPN); Boca Raton, Fla.
Gift suite

San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl
Dec. 23, 9:30 p.m. (ESPN); San Diego
$395 Best Buy gift card; Fossil watch; cap

Popeyes Bahamas Bowl
Dec. 24, Noon (ESPN); Nassau, Bahamas
Gift suite; Ogio Marshall Pack backpack; New Era 39Thirty cap

Hawaii Bowl
Dec. 24, 8 p.m. (ESPN); Honolulu
Gift suite; Oakley Holbrook sunglasses; Oakley Works backpack; Tori Richard aloha shirt; Pro Athletics T-shirt and shorts/swim trunks; beach towel

Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl
Dec. 26, 1 p.m. (ESPN); Dallas
Gift suite; Ogio Marshall Pack backpack; beanie; Big Game football

Quick Lane Bowl
Dec. 26, 4:30 p.m. (ESPN); Detroit
$250 Best Buy gift card; Sony headphones; custom-made Fathead for each player, with his likeness; various apparel; football

Bitcoin St. Petersburg Bowl
Dec. 26, 8 p.m. (ESPN); St. Petersburg, Fla.
Gift suite; Oakley Breadbox sunglasses; Oakley Works backpack

Military Bowl presented by Northrop Grumman
Dec. 27, 1 p.m. (ESPN); Annapolis, Md.
Microsoft Xbox One console; Under Armour backpack; Mighty Boom Ball speakers; beanie

Hyundai Sun Bowl
Dec. 27, 2 p.m. (CBS); El Paso, Texas
Gift suite; Timely Watch Co. watch; Ogio Politan backpack; Helen of Troy hair dryer; Majestic fleece pullover; Top of the World cap

Duck Commander Independence Bowl
Dec. 27, 3:30 p.m. (ABC); Shreveport, La.
Gift suite; Timely Watch Co. watch; New Era ski cap; football

New Era Pinstripe Bowl
Dec. 27, 4:30 p.m. (ESPN); Bronx, N.Y.
Variety of New Era products

National University Holiday Bowl
Dec. 27, 8 p.m. (ESPN); San Diego
$445 Best Buy gift card and shopping trip^; Fossil watch; cap

AutoZone Liberty Bowl
Dec. 29, 2 p.m. (ESPN); Memphis
Sol Republic Deck Ultra wireless bluetooth speaker; Bulova watch; Nike athletic shoes; Nike sport sandals; Nike sunglasses; Nike backpack; game ball

Russell Athletic Bowl
Dec. 29, 5:30 p.m. (ESPN); Orlando
$447 Best Buy gift card and shopping trip^; watch; athletic performance shirt

AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl
Dec. 29, 9 p.m. (ESPN); Houston
Gift suite; Adidas Team Speed duffel bag; cap; belt buckle

Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl
Dec. 30, 3 p.m. (ESPN); Nashville
Gift suite; Fossil watch

Belk Bowl
Dec. 30, 6:30 p.m. (ESPN); Charlotte
Shopping trip to Belk department store; Fossil watch

Foster Farms Bowl
Dec. 30, 10 p.m. (ESPN); Santa Clara, Calif.
Gift suite; Fossil watch

Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl
Dec. 31, 12:30 p.m. (ESPN); Atlanta
$300 Vanilla Visa gift card; Chick-fil-A gift card; Apple TV; Fossil watch; football

Vizio Fiesta Bowl
Dec. 31, 4 p.m. (ESPN); Glendale, Ariz.
Gift suite; Fossil watch; Ogio Rogue backpack

Capital One Orange Bowl
Dec. 31, 8 p.m. (ESPN); Miami Gardens, Fla.
Gift suite; Tourneau watch

Outback Bowl
Jan. 1, Noon (ESPN2); Tampa
$150 Best Buy gift card; Outback Steakhouse gift card; Fossil watch; Jostens ring; cap

Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic
Jan. 1, 12:30 p.m. (ESPN); Arlington, Texas
Information not available; bowl committee would not disclose

Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl
Jan. 1, 1 p.m. (ABC); Orlando
$447 Best Buy gift card and shopping trip^; watch; athletic performance shirt

Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual
Jan. 1, 5 p.m. (ESPN); Pasadena, Calif.
Gift suite; Fossil watch; Oakley Works backpack; New Era 59Fifty cap

Allstate Sugar Bowl
Jan. 1, 8:30 p.m. (ESPN); New Orleans
Gift suite; Fossil watch; New Era cap

Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl
Jan. 2, Noon (ESPN); Fort Worth, Texas
Gift suite; Ogio Marshall Pack backpack; beanie; Big Game football

TaxSlayer Bowl
Jan. 2, 3:20 p.m. (ESPN); Jacksonville
Panasonic gift suite; Fossil watch

Valero Alamo Bowl
Jan. 2, 6:45 p.m. (ESPN); San Antonio
GoPro Hero4 Silver camera and 32GB memory card; Fossil watch; Oakley Works backpack; Schutt mini helmet; panoramic photo

TicketCity Cactus Bowl
Jan. 2, 10:15 p.m. (ESPN); Tempe, Ariz.
Gift suite; Fossil watch; Ogio Rogue backpack

Birmingham Bowl
Jan. 3, 1 p.m. (ESPN); Birmingham, Ala.
Gift suite; Oakley sunglasses; beanie; hooded sweatshirt; Big Game football

GoDaddy Bowl
Jan. 4, 9 p.m. (ESPN); Mobile, Ala.
Sol Republic Tracks Air wireless/bluetooth on-ear headphones; watch; Coleman chair; military style backpack; Wilson football

College Football Playoff National Championship Game presented by AT&T
Jan. 12, 8:30 p.m. (ESPN); Arlington, Texas
Information not available; bowl committee would not disclose

^ To be spent during the team’s official store visit.
Notes: All times listed are ET. Product details are provided as they were available as of Dec. 4. Most watches, rings, clothing, luggage and footballs are custom-made with the bowl logo. Gift suites are set up as private events in which game participants, and often bowl VIPs, are given an order form and allowed to select a gift, or gifts, up to a value that is predetermined by each specific bowl, not to exceed the NCAA limit of $550 per person.
Compiled by David Broughton, Brandon McClung and Shelby O’Brien
Sources: Bowl committees and vendors

So does it seem like there are a lot of bowl games with new names this year?

There are — and much of that came from related moves.

Consider, for example, that 38 days before a Jan. 2 kickoff at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Ariz., TicketCity, which in 2011 and 2012 sponsored what is now the Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl, put its name on what used to be the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, a title sponsorship that was made available after Buffalo Wild Wings replaced Capital One in Orlando after Capital One took over the Orange Bowl from Discover.

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AT&T ended its Cotton Bowl deal but became presenting sponsor of the inaugural College Football Playoff championship game, which will be played at AT&T Stadium, which is also home of the newly renamed Goodyear Cotton Bowl.

Some other names, meanwhile, have been tweaked. The Chick-fil-A committee re-introduced the “Peach” moniker to the Atlanta game’s name this year following an eight-year absence, while the TaxSlayer Bowl in Jacksonville will be without the “Gator” name for the first time since its inception in 1946.

Elsewhere, AdvoCare moved its sponsorship from Shreveport to Houston, and Vizio went from the Rose to the Fiesta.

Overall, only three bowls can tout a decade-long run having the same name: Outback’s first title-sponsored game was played Jan. 1, 1996; San Diego County Credit Union has been the only title sponsor of the Poinsettia Bowl since that game’s debut in 2005; and the AutoZone Liberty Bowl name dates to 2004.


SBJ Podcast:
David Broughton and Brandon McClung, SBJ's research staff, discuss the annual list of college bowl gifts.

In an effort to motivate its clients to add Wi-Fi to their stadiums and arenas, IMG College has developed a relationship with Extreme Networks, a Silicon Valley-based network provider that works with several NFL teams.

Extreme has installed Wi-Fi and provided service for a half-dozen NFL teams as the league’s official Wi-Fi analytics provider. The company will now seek to expand its business in the college space, where relatively few stadiums have Wi-Fi.

Extreme already has completed one job at Baylor, prior to creating this relationship with IMG College. Auburn, Mississippi, Stanford and Wisconsin are among the other schools that have installed Wi-Fi throughout their stadiums with the help of other providers. Texas A&M will have it installed for the 2015 season when the Kyle Field redevelopment will be finished. The Aggies are using IBM.

Extreme is paying IMG College in the seven figures annually, according to industry estimates, to be the official Wi-Fi provider. The agreement calls for Extreme to buy a sponsorship from IMG College at each school when it closes a deal to install Wi-Fi.

Extreme also will have use of IMG College marks and testimonials for its marketing and business-to-business communications.

Norman Rice, Extreme’s senior vice president of corporate development, sees an opportunity in college sports because so few schools have installed Wi-Fi. The feedback from Baylor this season tells him that the younger crowds at college games are potentially a more viable customer base for Wi-Fi than the fans at pro games.

“When you look at data from Baylor versus other NFL venues, you see a much higher level of engagement with the younger demographic, in terms of game-day app, interaction and social media,” Rice said. “There is a proof point that you have a very highly astute, digitally connected demographic and they, for the most part, do not have the mechanism to connect.”

A first step in the sales process will be educating college decision-makers that the price tag to install Wi-Fi — $5 million or more, depending on the stadium’s infrastructure — will deliver a return, especially when many college administrators seem satisfied with the distributed antenna system, which delivers a stronger cell signal in their stadiums.

“Universities in general are more conservative and they’re trying to figure out how to approach this,” Rice said.

That’s where the strategic relationship with IMG College, which owns the multimedia rights to close to 80 colleges, comes in. The idea is that Extreme and IMG College will go to the colleges together, with IMG College making the introductions and both companies explaining the benefits, primarily boosting the in-game fan experience.

Andrew Judelson, IMG College senior vice president of national sales, led the process of selecting Extreme, whose NFL connections helped influence IMG College.

“IMG knows how to work with the universities and the sponsors, and we’re providing the platform for new methods of revenue generation,” Rice said. “Our sense is that the schools want their partner, like IMG, involved in the process.”

Installing Wi-Fi in a stadium takes 90 to 120 days, Rice said, depending on the existing infrastructure. Extreme has agreements with a couple of schools to install Wi-Fi for next season, but neither Extreme nor IMG College would identify the schools yet.

Rice advises clients to offer their Wi-Fi for free, as opposed to charging a game-day fee.

Extreme also has had talks with multimedia rights holder Learfield Sports about a similar arrangement.