Chick-fil-A has reached a new six-year agreement as title sponsor of Atlanta’s college football bowl game, which as of today is once again called the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl.
The Atlanta-based restaurant chain substantially increased its financial commitment in order to strike the deal with ESPN, which controls naming and media rights to the six bowls that are part of the new College Football Playoff system.
“It represented a major financial ramp-up,” Chick-fil-A executive vice president and chief marketing officer Steve Robinson said in an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “This has required the full engagement of our executive committee and the full endorsement of (company chairman and CEO) Dan Cathy. I even briefed Truett (Cathy, Chick-fil-A’s founder and chairman emeritus) on this whole playoff concept a year ago, and he was fully supportive. His comment was, ‘College football has been good for us. Sounds like a good idea to me.’
“We just have a great affinity for college football fans and alumni. In general …they frequent our restaurants at a higher index than other portions of the population. So this is a good fit for our brand, whether it’s Georgia or California.”
The Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl announced the new sponsorship deal and the return of Peach to the bowl’s name at a news conference this afternoon. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution first reported Friday that Peach would rejoin the bowl’s name after an eight-year absence to satisfy naming requirements set by playoff organizers.
The event was known as the Peach Bowl from 1968-1996, the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl from 1997-2005 and the Chick-fil-A Bowl from 2006-2013. The reversion to Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl comes as the event moves into the College Football Playoff as one of six rotating sites of semifinal games.
“Chick-fil-A has had the privilege of playing a role in the bowl’s growth over the last 17 years, helping raise the profile of the game,” Robinson said. “We now look forward to helping the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl elevate to a national stage.”
Robinson would not disclose financial terms of the new deal but said the company is “very pleased with it.”
In addition to the initial six-year term, he said the deal gives Chick-fil-A “first option to renew” for another six years. In addition to the title sponsorship, the deal calls for increased Chick-fil-A advertising across the ESPN family of networks and digital platforms, with an emphasis on college football programming.
“Our agreement with the network is much broader than just the bowl entitlement,” Robinson said. “It involves our media buy and our media activation throughout the entire college football season and the bowl season. … It is literally a border-to-border, Kickoff weekend-to-championship game agreement, and it also includes some other assets in other parts of the year that we are very excited about.”
Robinson said it took about a year to negotiate the new deal with ESPN. Once that was done, it took about a week to negotiate a new deal with bowl officials about how the sponsorship would be activated locally.
The deals come as Chick-fil-A restaurants have spread into 39 states and the company anticipates being in 47 or 48 states within five or six years.
“The bigger picture here is that Chick-fil-A is now in position to do some things to support the (restaurant) operators that they cannot do for themselves, principally in the area of national events and national media,” Robinson said. “The ESPN and bowl deal is a major cog in that plan. It’s a transition for us to help position the brand nationally.”
Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl president Gary Stokan, meanwhile, sees today’s announcements as a celebration of the bowl’s transition from a mid-tier postseason game into a marquee event that will host a national semifinal one year out of three and non-playoff games between teams ranked among the nation’s top 15 or so teams the other years.
“This is a remarkable day in our history,” Stokan said. “This not only represents the beginning of our new era in the College Football Playoff, but a reconnection to our history and tradition by bringing the Peach back into our name.”
Said Robinson: “It’s an exciting future. I don’t know that any of us, even those of us close to this, fully understand potentially what this will mean to college football in the city of Atlanta … It’s going to take the bowl and, bigger than that, college football in the city to a whole other level.”
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