It probably happened one day in a corporate boardroom in New York or Chicago. A bunch of stiff, pencil-pushing guys in suits sat around a table the size of a football field and discussed at length how the company could be identified with a great American tradition.
Corporate Flunky 1: "Thanksgiving Turkey Bungee-cord jumping?"
Corporate Big-Wig: "Higgins, you're fired!"
Corporate Flunky 2: "Fourth of July Jell-0 wrestling?"
Corporate Big-Wig: "Smithers, get out of my building!"
Corporate Flunky 3: "How about we sponsor one of those college bowl games?"
Corporate Big-Wig: (Pensive pause) "Very natty idea, Jamison. Yes, I love it! What sport would that be? Football? We never had bowl games in the Ivy League."
Corporate sponsorship caught on to the point that it's now become oppressive. It's a plague of our times. Plenty of companies are paying big money for the privilege of having their name attached to a bowl game. Unfortunately, crass American commercialism and college football seem to go hand-in-hand, or at least hand-in-wallet.
I was reminded of this with the recent announcement that the Las Vegas Bowl, which BYU has played in the past four seasons, is changing its name to the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas.
I'm sure you'll agree with me that nothing says holiday excitement quite like MAACO Bowl Las Vegas.
MAACO, of course, is an auto paint and auto body repair service company. It's probably only a matter of time before it's known as "Uh-Oh ... Better Get MAACO Bowl Las Vegas." Also known as, "Our Game's A Clunker!"
The game was formerly known as the Pioneer PureVision Las Vegas Bowl, but nobody referred it by that name. But now, MAACO is hoping we'll not only call it the MAACO Bowl, but also perhaps shout the name with the all-caps emphasis.
As if we needed another reason to create a college football playoff.
This bowl game tradition takes place every holiday season, when fans gather in front of their big screen televisions, preferably in HD, and soak in as much football as humanly possible. In the process, they also try to eat anything that doesn't move.
For Corporate America, the idea is that you and I, as members of the vast society of consumers (through repetition by TV announcers who incessantly say, for example, "Welcome back to the Meineke Car Care Bowl,") will line up single file at local stores or businesses to purchase their respective product, ware or service.
The money paid by corporate sponsors has risen dramatically.
For example, when the Holiday Bowl debuted in 1978, it paid $218,000 per team. This past season, its payout was $2.13 million. Heck, the Konica Minolta Gator Bowl cut checks for $2.5 million. The Capital One Bowl dished out $4.25 million.
The Bowl Championship Series Bowls — Allstate Sugar Bowl (in which Utah pulverized Alabama into tiny, white granules), Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, FedEx Orange Bowl and Rose Bowl Presented by Citi — each had a payout of $17 million.
Recession? What recession?
On the other hand, some bowls need help (maybe they could get in line and ask the Federal Government for a handout). Take the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl. It pays out just $398,000. That's not enough to fly a team to Hawaii, is it, let alone stay at a Sheraton Hotel? Then there's the poor Papajohns.com Bowl in Birmingham, Ala. ($300,000). You couldn't pay me $300,000 to go to Birmingham in late December.
The real problem is, of course, there are way too many bowl games. But that's another issue.
Basically, you need the stock market page to keep up on the latest bowl-game names. Certainly, college football — at least the BCS — is alive and wealthy because of corporate sponsors. But is the money they pay worth it? How effective is this kind of advertising?
Over the years, while watching many of the bowl games, I made a few notes to see if corporate sponsorship detracted or enhanced my enjoyment of the various bowls and if I was prompted to go out and purchase the given product or service being plugged shamelessly. Here are my findings, though this study isn't necessarily scientific. (By the way, some of these bowl names are defunct.)
JOHN HANCOCK BOWL: While watching this game, I had an obsession with writing my signature over and over again.
FEDEX ORANGE BOWL: Maybe I can still send that belated Christmas card tomorrow.
OUTBACK STEAKHOUSE GATOR BOWL: I couldn't help but wonder if gator burgers are on the Outback menu.
POULAN WEED EATER INDEPENDENCE BOWL: Served as a constant reminder that I need to go outside and take a weed eater to those 10-foot snowdrifts in my driveway.
ROADY'S HUMANITARIAN BOWL: I'll have to remember to visit a Roady's Truck Stop on my next cross-country sojourn in my 18-wheeler.
R+L CARRIERS NEW ORLEANS BOWL: Brought back frightening nightmares of an eighth-grade algebra class.
PAPAJOHNS.COM BOWL: With the amount of pizza my family consumes, I figured I was helping the Papa John's cause. Until I realized I was ordering Papa Murphy's instead.
MAGICJACK ST. PETERSBURG BOWL: Is a David Copperfield Bowl far behind?
INSIGHT BOWL: Ironically, I gleaned few insights while watching this game.
BRUT SUN BOWL: After spending an afternoon in the sweltering El Paso sun, a stick of Brut antiperspirant would come in handy, I'm sure.