With the upcoming onslaught of bowl games, America is yet again reminded of the role of capitalism in sports. Really, what post-season would be complete without the deliciously named Cheez-It Bowl, the melodious Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl, and the festive San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl?
In the past, bowl game sponsors have spent an average of $100 million on naming rights alone. While it is difficult to estimate how much revenue has been generated by this exposure, corporations clearly continue to trust in this tactic, as the names above prove.
Bowl game executives will likely finish the event with flush with cash as well. Forbes estimates that an annual bowl game can produce $200,000 to $1 million for its organizers.
And the teams themselves? This year, 40 bowl games will be conducted, meaning that 80 universities will have an opportunity to participate in this collegiate tradition. However, approximately 10-20 schools will actually lose money by sending their team to a bowl game.
For the teams in the red, their source of debt likely comes from travel expenses (i.e. plane tickets, hotels, etc.). Still, to participate in a bowl game, a university must often commit to purchasing a certain number of seats, with partaking colleges losing money and bowl organizers’ interest for each seat that is left unfilled.
Naturally, both universities and bowls games are not pleased with this outcome. For bowl organizers, the more people that watch the game (on ESPN or in-person), the more money a bowl can charge its sponsors for opportunities such as naming rights.
Universities benefit from further exposure too. Bowl games can foster a sense of school spirit and provide excellent publicity, attracting more students and more money.
To make Tulane’s potential bowl bid a lasting tradition and recoup potential financial losses, students and alumni need to show their enthusiasm and support their team. Without widespread participation, the economic benefits of a bowl game may be lacking and the scepter of capitalism will pass to another more spirited team.