The suite life is tops for bowl beneficiaries
The Beats headphones are back. So too are the Oakley sunglasses and the Fossil watches. And custom-made cowboy boots have kicked in the door this year.
But it’s the gift suites — where college football bowl game participants get shopping-like opportunities — that again headline this show.
Welcome to SportsBusiness Journal’s 10th annual rundown of the gift packages provided by college football’s bowl game organizing committees.
The NCAA allows each bowl to award up to $550 worth of gifts to 125 participants per school each year. Schools can, and usually do, buy additional gifts that they can distribute to participants beyond that 125 limit. Participants also can receive awards worth up to $400 from their schools and up to $400 from their conferences for postseason play, covering both conference title games and any bowl game.
The 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. About a dozen committees set up suites in the bowl’s host city, usually at the team hotel, while the others are staged by the game’s committee on the campus of the participating colleges.
The suite concept debuted in 2008, ahead of that season’s Orange Bowl. By the following year, suites were being used for a dozen games. That number has increased to now cover more than half of this season’s games.
The suites provide a wide range of gifts. Players can select from electronics, furniture, jewelry, luggage and more. Each suite is unique, and the slate of offerings has evolved through the years.
As they have since SBJ’s inaugural list was published in 2006, Goodyear Cotton Bowl representatives would not disclose the contents of their gift package this year. Organizers of this season’s national championship game also declined to provide details of their presents, but a source familiar with the plans said it would be an “iconic gift, unique to this specific game.”
Last year’s finalists, Ohio State and Oregon, received custom-made foot lockers from Olympic Case upon their trip to AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, for the title game. While Olympic Case has its trunks on sidelines throughout college football, Otis Jackoboice, vice president of sales and marketing for the company, said last year was the first time Olympic Case had been involved with the bowl gift process. Each custom foot locker had the College Football Playoff logo on the lid and a CFP embroidery inside, and a side plaque featuring the school mark.
|Foot lockers from Olympic Case for Oregon and Ohio State were new to the bowl process last year.
Among other gift notables this year:
■ KICKING THINGS OFF: Participants in the inaugural Nova Home Loans Arizona Bowl will receive a pair of custom-made boots from Cowtown Boots. Joe Calcaterra, Cowtown’s vice president of sales, said the players will have their choice of several skins, including cowhide, snake or lizard in a variety of colors. The boots retail from $150 to approximately $220.
■ PULLING THE PLUG: Gone is the Brut hairdryer, which had been part of the Hyundai Sun Bowl giveaway for decades. Helen of Troy Ltd., which holds the Brut, Revlon and other consumer health care brands, is based in El Paso, Texas, where the game is played. Officials from the bowl and Helen of Troy did not respond to attempts to find out the reason for the item’s absence. But as of press time, the story of the gift’s origin could still be found on the bowl’s website. It notes that in the early 1980s, Helen of Troy founder Gerald Rubin’s daughter was named the game’s Sun Queen. “It was not long after that Rubin began providing hairdryers for the team gift packages for the Sun Bowl,” the story goes, “and it has been a staple ever since.”
■ LOCAL FLAVOR: The AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl committee has presented a commemorative belt buckle to its participants every year since the inaugural 2006 game, and a Tori Richard aloha shirt is an annual tradition in the Hawai’i Bowl’s package.
|AutoZone Liberty Bowl teams will party and shop with Bass Pro Shops in Memphis.
Jon 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 — including bowl games. Over the next month, Cooperstein and his staff will ship, assemble, staff, break down, and reship gift suites at more than three dozen locations. He said while the bowl host committees enjoy the efficiency of hosting a gift suite, setting up a three-pallet, 80-box viewing area (with 1,100 pounds of products) for the players to walk through takes far more planning than if they were to simply hand out a goodie bag.
Larry Wahl, longtime vice president of communications for the Orange Bowl Committee, can attest to that, as he recounted a recent tense experience.
|GIFT||NO. OF BOWLS PROVIDING|
|Best Buy card*||5|
|New Era product||4|
* The committee that runs both the Russell Athletic Bowl and Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl provides participants a Best Buy gift card and hosts a shopping trip at an Orlando-area Best Buy. Best Buy's numbers are included in both totals here.
“In 2013, one of the team hotels [that was also hosting the gift suite] didn’t accept the shipment of the display items for the gifting suite and so the pallets were sent back to the local FedEx office. By the time we discovered it, the FedEx office was closing in 45 minutes.
“We have our own delivery group with a box truck during bowl week [to move items to and from hotels, stadiums and practice sites]. We called them and they had to drop everything to get there and pick the items up. Even so, we knew they couldn’t get there in 45 minutes, so we told FedEx to leave the pallets outside and we’d take responsibility if anything happened.
“The shipment was there when our guys arrived, but they didn’t have a pallet jack and had to lift the items individually into the truck instead of the whole pallet. One of the gifts is a big recliner [annually the most popular among the student athletes], and they had no way to lift that box — so they had to take them out of the box to pick them up onto the truck. They got everything to the hotel and set the suite up, just in the nick of time.”