In 2018, 38 postseason college bowl games reached 90 million unique fans, averaging 5,008,000 viewer per game. College football fans, which includes students, alumni and other die-hards, are incredibly devoted to their teams. This vocal group of highly-engaged fans drives the continued popularity of the NCAA alternative to the NFL, and marketers are capitalizing.
NCAA college bowl season usually lasts the entire month of December, culminating in early January and providing a large promotional window for advertisers and marketers to activate and engage with fans across channels.
College Football Is A Very Lucrative Business For Colleges And Brands
Sponsorships, mobile activations and streaming opportunities abound in the college football market offer the chance for brands to increase awareness and engagement among a very committed target market. College football, despite limitations because of the amateur status of athletes, is a very lucrative business with the sport’s 25 most valuable programs earning a combined average of $2.7 billion in revenues. And, depending on the conference, bowl season in particular can be a major money maker for sponsors, brands and schools, with millions of dollars being exchanged.
“In an increasingly fragmented world, especially in the media markets, college football remains one of the most powerful platforms for reaching a mass audience in real time,” said National Football Foundation President & CEO Steve Hatchell. Adding, “Whether you're one of the 47 million attending a football game or the 163 million watching on television, college football creates a powerful vehicle with those unique moments that are quickly disappearing in today's culture.”
Sponsorships Are A Major Factor In College Football Bowl Game Promotions
Not surprisingly, brands are clamoring for naming rights to the bowl games. The biggest bowl games all have high-octane sponsors who want their names associated with one of the most watched sporting events of the year. According to Hookit, a sponsorship analytics and valuation platform, “The major six bowl games are sponsored by PlayStation (Fiesta Bowl), Chick-fil-A (Peach Bowl), Goodyear (Cotton Bowl), Capital One (Orange Bowl), Northwestern Mutual (Rose Bowl), and Allstate (Sugar Bowl). These bowl games dominate television and viewership around the turn of the new year. By placing a recognizable sponsor name to each bowl game, fans begin to associate each major event with the sponsor. Many of these brands have been official sponsors for years and have become synonymous with their respective bowl games.”
Brands Deploy Fun Activations Around College Bowl Game Excitement
Some of the biggest brands in America, especially sports brands, capitalize on the popularity of the NCAA for activations and branding opportunities around college football and bowl games.
Food And Liquor Brands Use Social To Launch College Bowl Season Campaigns
Chipotle Free Delivery Bowl, which waives delivery fees on any order of $10 or more, is taking place again this year during the college bowl games and the college football championship season in late December and January. The offer can only be accessed through the Chipotle mobile app or online. Chipotle also launched “Free Delivery Interception” during this time, acting as a third-party delivery service for contest winners who used certain hashtags and interacted with the brand on Twitter.
Dos Equis returned this college football season with its “Keep It Interesante” campaign, giving fans the chance to win tickets to the College Football Playoff National Championship, airing after the college bowl games conclude. According to Convenience Store News, the Dos Equis campaign includes “15- and 30-second TV spots starring college football legends Steve Spurrier and Les Miles. Activation off- and on-premise will include displays, cross-merchandising partnerships with Dr Pepper and Eckrich, limited-edition packaging, and localized point-of-sale elements featuring college football artifacts and local colors to resonate with consumers in key markets.”
Nike Beats Adidas And Under Armour In The College Bowl Apparel Wars
For the sixth year running, Nike is the apparel sponsor for the majority of the NCAA college football teams, with the Swoosh appearing on more than 53% of the teams. Adidas and Under Armour fill out the top three.
Amateur athletes cannot technically endorse products, but the exposure for brands during bowl games and across social media platforms, where logos are prominently displayed, creates an association between the brands and athletes, providing awareness and engagement. Nielsen Sports Sponsorlink found, “84% of college football fans would consider a company’s brand, products or services for the first time when that company sponsors an event or sport they follow.”
Viewership of College Bowl Games Is Multichannel With Networks Successfully Offering Streaming Options
The rise of streaming services brings new opportunities for brands, as fans are able to access the games on multiple devices at home or on the go, meaning more eyes on screens and more potential engagement for sponsors. The college football bowl games are airing on a mix of network and cable stations, including ESPN, ABC, Fox and CBS, all of which are also streaming the games. FuboTV, a service that streams live TV, is also airing all the college bowl games, making the games available for mobile users, Roku, Chromecast and more. Last year, the CBS streaming coverage of the SEC Championship drove a record amount of users with unique viewers up 71% and total streams up 67%.
Reaching College Football Fans During Bowl Season
College football fans are tuned-in throughout the college football season, and reaching them during college bowl season could be as simple as offering a unique product or activation effectively deployed across multiple channels. This college football audience may be easily targeted on mobile, while watching games on television or with bumper ads airing during clips or highlights on social media platforms. Capitalizing on the very targeted and engaged college bowl audience can be an effective way to introduce new items or increase brand engagement.
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About the AuthorMore Content by Sarah Cavill