Today, every college football bowl game on the menu has a corporate sponsor. For lower-level games, the price tag for sponsorship can check in at $500,000 or less, according to data from Navigate Research. For the big games that really move the needle, that number can climb to upwards of $20 million or more.
As most bowl game sponsors see it, it’s an opportunity to get their brand in front of millions of eyeballs. Bowl games are incredibly popular on TV, and that includes even the ones with sparse live attendance. Some sponsors have been in it for the long haul and attach their name to a bowl game year after year. Some have been one and done.
Public sentiment about college bowl names has shifted as well. The sponsorship aspect and growth of college football into big business is generally accepted, but that doesn’t mean that some of the names still aren’t subjected to scorn and ridicule. A “worst bowl game names” list is a yearly segment on virtually every sports blog.
Many memorable (and not so memorable) bowl game names have been introduced during the sponsorship era. Here’s a running list of the companies which have paid up to attach their name to a college football bowl game.
Academy Sports + Outdoors Texas Bowl (2017-201)
Advocare V100 Independence Bowl (2013)
AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl (2014-2016)
Alamo Bowl presented by MasterCard (2002-2005)
AllState Sugar Bowl (2007-Present)
American General Music City Bowl (1998)
AT&T Rose Bowl (1999-2002)
AutoNation Cure Bowl (2015-2018)
AutoZone Liberty Bowl (2004-Present)
AXA Liberty Bowl (1997-2003)
Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl (2017-Present)
BattleFrog Fiesta Bowl (2016)
BBVA Compass Bowl (2011-2014)
Beef O’Brady’s Bowl (2010-2013)
Belk Bowl (2011-2019)
Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl (2006-2013)
Bitcoin St. Petersburg Bowl (2014)
Blockbuster Bowl (1990-1993)
Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl (2010-2012)
Brut Sun Bowl (2006-2009)
Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl (2012-2013)
Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl (2015-2017)
Builders Square Alamo Bowl (1993-1998)
California Raisin Advisory Board California Bowl (1988-1991)
Camping World Bowl (2017-2019)
Camping World Independence Bowl (2015-2016)
Capital One Bowl (2003-2014)
Capital One Florida Citrus Bowl (2001-2002)
Capital One Orange Bowl (2014-Present)
Carquest Bowl (1994-1997)
Champs Sports Bowl (2004-2011)
Cheribundi Boca Raton Bowl (2017-Present)
Chick-fil-A Bowl (2006-2013)
Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl (1997-2005) (2014-Present)
Citrus Bowl presented by Overton’s (2018)
CompUSA Florida Citrus Bowl (1994-1999)
ConAgra Foods Hawaii Bowl (2002)
Continental Tire Bowl (2002-2004)
Crucial.com Humanitarian Bowl (1999-2003)
Culligan Holiday Bowl (1998-2001)
Diamond Walnut San Francisco Bowl (2002-2003)
Discover Orange Bowl (2011-2014)
Domino’s Pizza Copper Bowl (1990-1991)
Dollar General Bowl (2016-2018)
Duck Commander Independence Bowl (2014)
Duke’s Mayo Bowl (formerly Belk Bowl) (2020- )
DXL Frisco Bowl (2017-2018)
EA Sports Las Vegas Bowl (1999)
Eagle Bank Bowl (2008-2009)
Emerald Bowl (2004-2009)
EV1.net Houston Bowl (2002-2005)
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl (2011-Present)
FBC Mortgage Cure Bowl (2019-Present)
FedEx Orange Bowl (1989-2010)
Ford Motor Company Quick Lane Bowl (2014-Present)
Foster Farms Bowl (2014-2017)
Franklin American Mortgage Company Music City Bowl (2010-Present)
Galleryfurniture.com Bowl (2000-2001)
Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl (2002-2009)
Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl presented by Bridgestone (2003-2007)
Gildan New Mexico Bowl (2011-2017)
GMAC Bowl (2001-2010)
GMAC Mobile Alabama Bowl (2000)
GoDaddy Bowl (2014-2015)
GoDaddy.com Bowl (2011-2013)
Goodyear Cotton Bowl (2014-Present)
Guaranteed Rate Bowl (2020- )
Heart of Dallas Bowl presented by PlainsCapital Bank (2013-2014)
HomeAway Citrus Bowl (2019-Present)
Homepoint.com Music City Bowl (1999)
Humanitarian Bowl Association Humanitarian Bowl (1997-1998)
Hyundai Sun Bowl (2010-2018)
IBM OS/2 Fiesta Bowl (1993-1995)
Insight Bowl (2002-2011)
Insight.com Bowl (1997-2001)
Jared Birmingham Bowl (2018)
Jeep Oahu Bowl (1998-2000)
Jeep Corporation Aloha Bowl (1982-2000)
John Hancock Bowl (1989-1993)
John Hancock Sun Bowl (1987-1988)
Kellogg’s Cheez-It Bowl (2018-Present, now in Florida)
Kellogg’s Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl (2019-Present)
Konica Minolta Gator Bowl (2008-2010)
Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl (2010-2012)
Las Vegas Bowl presented by Geico (2016)
LendingTree Bowl (2019-Present)
Little Caesars Pizza Bowl (2009-2013)
Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl (2014-Present)
Maaco Bowl Las Vegas (2009-2012)
MagicJack St. Petersburg Bowl (2008)
MainStay Independence Bowl (2001-2003)
Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl (2018-Present)
Marmot Boca Raton Bowl (2015)
MasterCard Alamo Bowl (2003-2005)
Mazda Gator Bowl (1986-1991)
Mazda Tangerine Bowl (2002-2003)
Meineke Car Care Bowl (2005-2010)
Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas (2011-2012)
Mercari Texas Bowl (2020- )
MicronPC Bowl (1998)
MicronPC.com Bowl (1999-2000)
Mitsubishi Las Vegas Bowl (2018-Present)
Mobil Cotton Bowl (1989-1995)
Motel 6 Cactus Bowl (2016)
MPC Computers Bowl (2004-2006)
National Funding Holiday Bowl (2015-2016)
National University Holiday Bowl (2013-2014)
New Era Pinstripe Bowl (2010-Present)
Nokia Sugar Bowl (1996-2006)
Northrop Grumman Military Bowl (2010-Present)
Norwest Bank Sun Bowl (1996)
Norwest Corporation Sun Bowl (1997-1998)
Nova Home Loans Arizona Bowl (2015-Present)
OurHouse.com Florida Citrus Bowl (2000)
Outback Bowl (1996-Present)
Outback Gator Bowl (1992-1994)
Pacific Life Holiday Bowl (2002-2009)
Papajohns.com Bowl (2006-2010)
PetroSun Independence Bowl (2006-2008)
Pioneer Las Vegas Bowl (2007-2008)
Pioneer PureVision Las Vegas Bowl (2004-2006)
PlainsCapital Fort Worth Bowl (2003-2004)
PlayStation Fiesta Bowl (2016-Present)
Plymouth Holiday Bowl (1995-1997)
Popeyes Bahamas Bowl (2014-2016)
Poulan Independence Bowl (1990)
Poulan Weed Eater Independence Bowl (1991-1997)
Progressive Gator Bowl (2011)
R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl (2006-Present)
Raycom Media Camellia Bowl (2014-Present)
Redbox Bowl (2018-2019)
Roady’s Humanitarian Bowl (2007-2009)
Rose Bowl presented by Citi (2004-2010)
Rose Bowl presented by Northwestern Mutual (2015-Present)
Rose Bowl presented by Sony Playstation 2 (2003)
Rose Bowl presented by Vizio (2011-2014)
Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl (2013-2015)
Russell Athletic Bowl (2012-2016)
San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl (2017-Present)
San Diego County Credit Poinsettia Bowl (2005-2016)
Sanford Independence Bowl (1998-2000)
SBC Communications Cotton Bowl (2001-2006)
Sea World Holiday Bowl (1986-1990)
Sega Sports Las Vegas Bowl (2001-2002)
ServPro First Responder Bowl (2018-Present)
Sheraton Hawaii Bowl (2003-2013)
SoFi Hawaii Bowl (2018-Present)
Southwestern Bell Cotton Bowl (1996-2000)
St. Jude Liberty Bowl (1993-1996)
St. Petersburg bowl presented by Beef O’Brady’s (2009)
Sunkist Fiesta Bowl (1986-1990)
Sylvania Alamo Bowl (1999-2001)
TaxSlayer Bowl (2014-2017)
TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl (2012-2013)
Thrifty Car Rental Holiday Bowl (1991-1994)
TicketCity Bowl (2011-2012)
TicketCity Cactus Bowl (2015)
TicketSmarter Birmingham Bowl (2019-Present)
Tostitos Fiesta Bowl (1996-2014)
Toyota Gator Bowl (1995-2007)
TransPerfect Music City Bowl (2020- )
Tropical Smoothie Cafe Frisco Bowl (2019-Present)
uDrove Humanitarian Bowl (2010)
USF&G Sugar Bowl (1988-1995)
Valero Alamo Bowl (2007-Present)
Visit Florida Tangerine Bowl (2001)
Vitalis Sun Bowl (2004-2005)
Vizio Fiesta Bowl (2014)
VRBO Citrus Bowl (2019-Present)
Walk-On’s Independence Bowl (2017-Present)
Weiser Lock Copper Bowl (1992-1995)
Wells Fargo Sun Bowl (1999-2003)
Wyndham New Orleans Bowl (2004-2005)
Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl (2014-2017)
The history of college football bowl games can be traced all the way back to 1902. The first was dubbed the Tournament East-West Football Game and sponsored by the Tournament of Roses Association.
Beginning in 1916, the game became an annual contest. Fast forward to 1923, and a much more catchy name was bestowed on the game. The Rose Bowl was born, and let’s just say it became quite a hit with the masses.
Dubbed the ‘Granddaddy of Them All,’ this game is still held annually and remains one of the most popular college football games of the calendar year.
The following decade, other major bowl games were introduced. The Sugar Bowl, Cotton Bowl, Orange Bowl, and Sun Bowl all debuted. Each of them have stood the test of time and are still going strong today.
In the decades that followed, even more games were added. Several have lasted and become annual events, while others never quite gained their footing. By the time the 1980s rolled around, more than a dozen annual Bowl Games were being held at locations around the nation.
The landscape shifted even further from that point. College football bowl games had become big business, and the floodgates opened up even more with the introduction of corporate sponsorship.
Traditional games such as the Orange Bowl suddenly had lengthier names like the FedEx Orange Bowl. Many traditionalists weren’t too keen on the idea of tradition being trumped for dollars, but this was no flash in the pan idea.
As you can see from the list above, corporate bowl game sponsorship is still going strong. NCAA bowl games are big business (as is the college football betting business), and it’s expected that the pot will only continue to grow.
In fact, there are a handful of games in the planning stages which could push the total number of bowl games in 2020 (and beyond) to 45 or more.
Since the 1980s, Bowl Season has grown from 12+ games to 40+. It’s not too tough to draw a line from corporate sponsorship being a big part of the tremendous growth.
In the early days of college bowl game sponsors, it was the domain of bigger companies such as Federal Express, Mazda, and John Hancock. Heading into the 1990s, smaller companies decided it was time for the big boys and girls to stop having all of the fun.
The floodgates opened even further, and many memorable names were introduced into the public lexicon.
Who can forget the Poulan Weed Eater Independence Bowl? Or the IBM OS/2 Fiesta Bowl? From the late 1990s into the early 2000s, sponsorship would evolve even further thanks to the dot com boom.
A number of bowls sprouted up which featured the full web address of the sponsoring company, such as the OurHouse.com Citrus Bowl. As the money increased, some companies gained the complete naming rights and decided to forego traditional names all together, resulting in names such as the Outback Bowl.
Today, there are still a number of eyebrow-raising names out there, including the Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl. Sponsorship has continued to evolve and seen such developments as Elk Grove Village, Illinois – which bills itself as the location of the largest Industrial Park in the United States – sponsoring a game.
The village is now the sponsor of the Bahamas Bowl, which has been renamed as the Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl. The era of bowl game sponsorship is chock full of interesting tidbits, including:
There’s no cut and dry answer to this question. For massive companies which have their names attached to bowl games year after year, we can safely deduce that the answer is yes.
Companies such as Capital One and Ford Motor Company are huge entities which have boards of directors and shareholders to answer to. If they weren’t seeing a return on investment that justified the expenditure, bowl game sponsorship wouldn’t be a priority for them.
For smaller companies, the answer is mixed. There are success stories, as well as tales of companies which probably should have thought things through a little bit better. Although you could argue a coveted spot on a “Most Absurd Bowl Game Names, Ranked” list has its own advertising & marketing value.
A perfect example comes from the 2015 Fiesta Bowl. ESPN found itself in the unexpected position of being unable to find a sponsor for the game. Enter a Florida-based company named BattleFrog.
Who is BattleFrog? You can be certain that question was asked hundreds of times during that particular bowl season.
BattleFrog was a company that specialized in obstacle course races. They received a ton of brand awareness as a result of exposure during the game, but that didn’t translate to the bottom line. BattleFrog closed up shop in 2016.
For another example of funds which would have been better spent elsewhere, we need to look no further than the dot com boom of the late 1990s and into the 2000s. Several bowl games were suddenly adorned with title sponsors featuring their full web addresses. Some weathered the storm when the tech bubble popped, while others went by the wayside.
In short, it really comes down to a case by case basis. When we’re talking about the larger bowl games which comprise the New Year’s Six, there’s a ton of money involved with huge corporate sponsors attached.
These bowl games aren’t going anywhere, and several entities have locked themselves into multi-year partnerships. Again, they wouldn’t be doing so if they weren’t seeing a good amount of bang for their buck.
On the smaller bowl games, the answer will vary depending on the company. Some sponsorships have amounted to an immediate boost and national name recognition; others have proven to be a gigantic waste of resources.
For example, previously mentioned Elk Grove Village, IL was quite pleased with the results from the Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl. As Business of College Sports reported, it brought in a big new client (Love’s Travel Stops and Country Stores) and the village re-upped for another year. On the other hand, Overton’s decided that a year of sponsoring the Citrus Bowl was enough.
One other factor to consider is this: Is it a good look for a company to have their name attached to a game which doesn’t attract a ton of people to the stands? A half-empty stadium for a game with a corporate logo can have negative ramifications. The bright side suggests, though, that’s offset by the eyeballs glued to the tube.
Check back to our page next year for an updated list of all college bowl game sponsors, ever.