The Chick-fil-A Bowl is testing names that it might adopt when it joins the new College Football Playoff.
The Atlanta bowl was awarded a spot in the playoff lineup in April with the stipulation that it would have to expand its name to include a non-corporate moniker along with the title sponsor. Bowl president Gary Stokan said at the time that he expected the bowl to comply by again becoming the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl.
Three months later, a return of Peach to the bowl’s name remains a possibility – but not a certainty.
“Obviously, Peach is one of those names being considered,” Stokan said. He said the bowl’s advertising agency, Brunner, is testing other names by surveying a “cross-section of people from ticket buyers to sponsors to volunteers.”
Stokan declined to disclose the names being considered in addition to Peach, saying that publicizing them would compromise the integrity of the vetting process. But he confirmed “Legacy,” as in Chick-fil-A Legacy Bowl, is one of them, adding: “There are other names out there.”
“We’re just doing some due diligence to test some names,” Stokan said.
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 fast-food 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 Chick-fil-A Bowl gained stature in April when it was named one of six bowls that will rotate as hosts of national semifinal games in the new playoff system, which begins with the 2014 season. But playoff organizers stipulated that the Atlanta bowl’s name would have to become more in sync with the other five, all of which include a traditional moniker as well as a corporate sponsor: the Allstate Sugar Bowl, Discover Orange Bowl, AT&T Cotton Bowl, Tostitos Fiesta Bowl and Rose Bowl Presented by Vizio.
The bowls are run by independent organizations, and including another name alongside a corporation’s ensures some consistency if title sponsors change over the years.
While it might seem simple to follow Stokan’s initial inclination to revive the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl name, the decision is perhaps complicated from a branding perspective because the Atlanta bowl was far less successful when it was known as the Peach Bowl than it has been as the Chick-fil-A Bowl. For many years, the Peach Bowl was dogged by famously bad weather, low payouts and, at times, difficulty selling enough tickets to keep the NCAA from shutting it down.
“We want to be reflective, but we also want to look forward to what opportunities present themselves,” Stokan said. “Peach may still be the name we select at the end of the process, but when you take a timeout like this and haven’t had a moniker for a number of years, you say, ‘Is there a better option?’
“We’ve grown as a bowl game; we’ve grown as an entity. We’ve added the Kickoff game. We’ve created a golf tournament. When we were the Peach Bowl, we were just the bowl. Now there could be something that adds value that may be different from Peach or may not. It’s all part of the process.”
Whether Peach or another moniker is chosen, the bowl will have a corporate title sponsor. Chick-fil-A wants to maintain that role and is attempting to negotiate a deal with ESPN, which as part of its contract to televise the four-team playoff obtained the rights to sell corporate title sponsorships for the bowls in the semifinal rotation.
That means Chick-fil-A, which in the past negotiated with local bowl officials, must reach a deal with ESPN, which could choose a different corporate title sponsor if negotiations fail.
“Our association with college football in Atlanta goes back nearly 20 years, and we were thrilled when Atlanta was selected as one of the host bowls in the new College Football Playoff,” Steve Robinson, Chick-fil-A’s executive vice president and chief marketing officer, said in an e-mailed statement.
“The moniker associated with the bowl game is not a decision made by Chick-fil-A, but rather by the bowl’s board of trustees. We are continuing to work with ESPN, with whom we’ve enjoyed a great partnership, to keep the Chick-fil-A brand prominently associated with the game.”
ESPN has said that while it will sell the bowl’s corporate naming rights, it won’t have input into whether the rest of the name is Peach or something else. Chick-fil-A hasn’t expressed a position publicly about restoring Peach.
Stokan said there is no timetable for the bowl’s board of trustees to make a decision on the moniker, noting that this coming season’s game will remain the Chick-fil-A Bowl.
The Atlanta bowl, by whatever name, is scheduled to host national semifinals in the 2016, 2019, 2022 and 2025 seasons.