When Atlanta’s Chick-fil-A Bowl moves into the future as part of college football’s new playoff, it expects to be accompanied by a big piece of its past: the Peach.
Founded in 1968 as the Peach Bowl, the Chick-fil-A Bowl, as it has been known since 2006, was chosen Wednesday as one of six rotating sites of national semifinal games. Chick-fil-A Bowl president Gary Stokan said he was told by playoff officials that the bowl’s name will have to include more than a corporate sponsor’s in order to be in sync with the other games in the semifinal rotation when the playoff begins with the 2014 season.
Stokan said “we agreed to” that condition, set by conference commissioners who oversee the playoff, and added that he expects the Atlanta bowl to comply by again becoming the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, as it was known from 1997 through 2005.
Peach, the bowl’s sole name for its first 30 years, was dropped altogether in 2006 in return for more sponsorship money from the fast-food giant.
A name change undoubtedly would be part of upcoming negotiations with Chick-fil-A. But if Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl is readopted, that would make the name more in keeping with other bowls in the playoff rotation: the Allstate Sugar Bowl, Discover Orange Bowl, AT&T Cotton Bowl, Tostitos Fiesta Bowl and Rose Bowl Presented by Vizio.
Including a bowl’s traditional name alongside a corporation’s ensures some consistency if title sponsors change over the years.
Atlanta-based Chick-fil-A, which would have to negotiate a new sponsorship deal as part of the playoff shift in any case, apparently was surprised by word of an impending name change.
Steve Robinson, the company’s executive vice president and chief marketing officer, declined to discuss the situation Thursday. He wrote in an email, “At this stage, I am not in a position to give you any more definitive information concerning the bowl’s name.”
In a prepared statement, Robinson added: “We look forward to working with ESPN … to keep the Chick-fil-A brand associated with this game. Chick-fil-A has enjoyed a 17-year partnership with ESPN and we hope to continue that relationship.”
As part of its deal to televise the four-team playoff, ESPN obtained the exclusive naming and marketing rights to the bowls in the semifinal rotation. That means a title sponsor, which in the past negotiated directly with the local bowl, will have to reach a deal with ESPN.
ESPN spokesman Michael Humes said the network has no role in deciding to reinstall the Peach.
“While we can sell a sponsorship for in front of the name of the bowl, we have no input on the rest of the name,” Humes said.
Early this week, in a wide-ranging interview about the bowl, Robinson said Chick-fil-A has “very high hopes” of continuing its role into the playoff environment, “but we’ve got to negotiate that and preserve our title sponsorship.”
Asked at the time if he expected Peach to rejoin the name, Robinson said: “That has not been brought up and obviously our interest is to keep the bowl name the Chick-fil-A Bowl. We feel like the brand experience, particularly of the last 10, 11 years, is all affiliated with the Chick-fil-A Bowl.”
As part of the playoff, the Atlanta bowl will host national semifinal games in the 2016, 2019, 2022 and 2025 seasons.