Chick-fil-A Bowl will restore ‘Peach’ to its name

After an eight-year absence, Peach is returning to the name of Atlanta’s college-football bowl game.

Chick-fil-A Bowl officials have scheduled a news conference for Monday to announce that the bowl’s name will revert to Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has learned.

Gary Stokan, president of the bowl, confirmed the plan today to the AJC.

“It got down to what is our history, what is our heritage, what is our tradition and how can we pay homage to that in our name,” Stokan said.

“We undertook research to find out what is the best name and how it fits with the bowl. That’s how we got back to Peach. We felt it was important to the fans, to the staff and to the volunteers who have committed to the bowl through the years.”

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The Atlanta game was founded in 1968 as the Peach Bowl, which remained the event’s sole name for three decades. The name was expanded to Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl in 1997 when the Atlanta-based restaurant chain became the bowl’s first title sponsor. Peach was dropped from the name in 2006 in return for more sponsorship money from Chick-fil-A.

The change back to Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl stems from last April’s decision by College Football Playoff organizers to make the Atlanta bowl one of six rotating sites of national semifinal games.

The playoff organizers stipulated that the Atlanta bowl’s name would have to become more in sync with the other five in the semifinal rotation, all of which include a traditional moniker as well as a corporate sponsor: Allstate Sugar Bowl, Discover Orange Bowl, AT&T Cotton Bowl, Tostitos Fiesta Bowl and Rose Bowl Presented by Vizio.

At the time, speculation immediately surfaced that Peach would rejoin the name, but bowl officials later tested numerous other options that would satisfy the playoff’s naming requirements. They ultimately determined that Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl made the most sense.

“At the end of the day, the preponderance of our board was supportive when this name was listed against any other name that was put on the board,” Stokan said.

Chick-fil-A executive vice president and chief marketing officer Steve Robinson said the restaurant company is “completely comfortable and supportive” with restoring the Peach name because of the “judicious” way the decision was made.

“It would have been very easy to just have an immediate emotional reaction and say, ‘We’ve got to use a moniker (so) we’re going to use Peach,’” Robinson said.

A more thorough examination was needed, he felt, because when known as the Peach Bowl and played outdoors at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, the event struggled for survival and was known for bad weather and weak attendance.

“We all know there were some rough days in the history of the Peach Bowl, so one of the questions was whether there were brand issues there that would not work in our favor,” Robinson said. “I commend (Stokan) and the board for being willing to do customer research where a large number of potential moniker names were floated to determine which one was the best fit for Atlanta, college football and the future. And Peach won.

“It was encouraging to know we were picking a moniker that people still liked. … The voice of the customer had been listened to.”

Robinson acknowledged “there’s always a concern” about brand identity for a title sponsor when it isn’t an event’s sole name.

“If we had our druthers, we’d rather have remained the Chick-fil-A Bowl,” he admitted. “But the playoff group did not give us that option, so we’re willing to play by the rules. … We’re indelibly joined to the Peach name.”

Robinson acknowledged “there’s always a concern” about brand identity for a title sponsor when it isn’t an event’s sole name.

“If we had our druthers, we’d rather have remained the Chick-fil-A Bowl,” he admitted. “But the playoff group did not give us that option, so we’re willing to play by the rules. … We’re indelibly joined to the Peach name, and we’re part of it.”

At Monday’s press conference, which Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and College Football Playoff chief operating officer Michael Kelly are scheduled to attend, bowl and Chick-fil-A officials also are expected to discuss other plans regarding the bowl’s elevation from a mid-tier postseason game to a marquee event.

As part of the playoff, the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl will host a national semifinal game once every three years. It will have a semifinal game for the 2016, 2019, 2022 and 2025 seasons. In other years, the bowl will match two highly rated teams in a non-playoff game.

The bowl will be played in the Georgia Dome through the 2016 season and is scheduled to move into the new retractable-roof Falcons stadium when it opens in 2017.

The name of Atlanta’s season-opening Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game will not change.

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