College football bowl reflects times

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Are you as excited as I am to be sponsoring a major college bowl game this season?

Fulfillment of a dream, right? I can’t wait to graze on the “amuse-bouches” in the skybox!

Sure, it took some sacrifices to become a major bowl sponsor — blood, sweat and somewhere in the neighborhood of $14 billion and counting in bailout dough, to be exact.

But when the GMAC Bowl gets the party started at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Ala., Jan. 6, each and every U.S. taxpayer can say with pride, “I made it happen.”

“When the GMAC Bowl gets the party started Jan. 6, each and every U.S. taxpayer can say with pride, ‘I made it happen.’”

That’s going to be one crowded skybox.

Technically, we sort of co-sponsored the GMAC Bowl last year after GMAC, the finance arm of General Motors, ended its 10-year marriage to the teetering automaker in order to accept a $5 billion transfusion from the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP.

You may recall that GM and other TARP-papered giants spent last spring being roasted on the spit of public ridicule like so much tailgate barbecue. But now that it’s bowl season and GMAC has rebranded itself as Ally Bank, it’s pass the baby backs and climb aboard the Barcalounger!

We football fans have an enormous capacity to forgive and quickly forget when bowl time rolls around. (Which is strange when you consider that the aim of all sponsorship is to leave an indelible impression. But let’s keep that our little secret, shall we?)

As long as the field lights fire up and the sideline heaters keep the cheerleaders jumping, we’re happy to hyphenate our hallowed bowl names with pretty much any deep-pocketed corporation willing to pick up the tab. And with a postseason schedule that has ballooned to an embarrassing 34 games, it’s best not to be too choosy.

Stay close to ‘man land’

For some sponsors, the money invested — six figures for minor bowls, upward of $6 million for the bigs — seems like a classic no-brainer.

Tostitos, which sponsors the Fiesta Bowl, is the perfect blend of snack and sporting event. Surely the chipmaker makes chips on that pairing. Ditto for the Bowl, the Chick-fil-A Bowl (I’ve ordered that!) and the Outback Bowl, which is Australian for “Twist, open, pour.”

All sorts of “guy stuff” has managed to insinuate itself into bowl sponsorship over the years. The Meineke Car Care Bowl reminds us of the cost of vegetating in front of the tube for a solid month. Rust never sleeps, dude. Valero gas stations, Champs Sports and Roady’s Truck Stops are muy macho. The Konica Minolta Gator Bowl makes us feel like a sports photographer, even in our man-jammies.

The jury is still out on the Brut Sun Bowl. Real guys don’t acknowledge self-fragrance. Ever.

But the return on investment becomes less clear when the products stray from man land.

Despite their mind-numbing repetition by sportscasters and commentators, the Sugar Bowl has not become the “Allstate Sugar Bowl” and the Rose Bowl has not become the “Rose Bowl Game presented by Citi,” at least not outside of the broadcast booth.

Why? Because we don’t want to be reminded of our financial responsibilities while watching the game.

We’re on that big-screen field during game time, not sitting around a plush corporate office pleasantly smiling through an ear-beating from some insurance agent or financial adviser. I mean, it’s third and long with a five-man rush! My 401(k) can wait!

All sponsors hope that once the holiday pigskin rituals are over and the face paint and giant sponge fingers have been retired for another year, we will think fondly of them for having made this temporary madness possible.

And indeed we will — as long as they’re not paying the bill with TARP bucks.

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