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Disney Announces Bowl Sponsors as COVID-19 Threatens Games

Alabama Crimson Tide
Top-ranked Alabama will be in the college football playoffs (Image credit: ESPN)

Disney Ad Sales announced that it has locked in 13 brands as sponsors for its telecasts of College Football Playoff and other post-season bowl games as the rise in COVID-19 cases cancels some contests and raises questions about whether others will be played.

Disney said that AT&T is returning as sponsor of the College Football Playoff National Championship Game on January 10.

Allstate, Capital One, Capital One Venture X, Chick-fil-A, and Playstation will be title sponsors of the six bowl games that will be played on New Year’s Day on ABC and ESPN.

Disney said other sponsors include Cheez-It, Dr. Pepper, Gatorade, Mercedes-Benz, Modelo, Ram Truck and Taco Bell.

Meanwhile at least five college football bowl games have already been cancelled because of COVID-19. 

The canceled games are the Hawai’i Bowl, the Military Bowl, The Fenway Bowl, the Arizona Bowl and the Holiday Bowl.

Some teams have been forced to withdraw because of the virus. Miami and Boise State had to drop out of the Sun Bowl and now Central Michigan will be the opponent for Washington State in the December 31 game.

Texas A&M said it couldn’t play in the Gator Bowl and was replaced by Rutgers, which will play Wake Forest.

If the entire slate of bowl games got wiped out because of the virtual, Disney and ESPN could lose as much as $400 million in ad revenue, according to Bloomberg Intelligence.

But as of Wednesday, Disney Ad Sales remained upbeat, citing unmatched excitement about the games.

“We've seen tidal waves of excitement with each matchup announcement as fans get ready to cheer on their teams and we’re excited that our sponsors are at the center of the fanfare and celebration,” said Sean Hanrahan, senior VP, Sports Brand Solutions, at ESPN. “We make it a priority to surround fans with a variety of content to make the viewing experience fun with the expectation that they will extend the amount of time they spend with the game.” 

ESPN said sponsors will be featured in custom branded content during the games. The content is being created by Disney CreativeWorks, the company’s content studio and agencies.

The sponsors will also be involved in on-site activations and other televised integrations.

Goodyear will be providing aerial coverage of the News Year’s Six Bowl games and College Football Playoff Games. New for this year will be tire sculptures of team mascots at the Cotton Bowl and the National Championship Game.

Capital One Venture X will be the presenting sponsor of the Rose Bowl Game, with Capital once serving as the presenting sponsor of the Championship Drive Show airing on January 10. 

Allstate returns as title sponsor of the Allstate Sugar Bowl. Allstate nets will be behind the goalposts during kicks and an on-site Allstate sponsored bus will be shown at the Capital One Orange Bowl  and the National Championship game. ■

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.