The Arizona Bowl, 7, has struggled with how to stand out on television as there are dozens of college playoff football games that flood the airwaves in late December and early January.
So in an unexpected twist, game officials won’t even try.
The Arizona Bowl recently announced a partnership with Barstool Sports for its December 31 game in Tucson, Arizona. The multi-year deal with the digital sports platform – notable for its sometimes quirky humor and brash founder Dave Portnoy – includes not only naming rights, but broadcast rights as well, meaning the game won’t be on. ESPN or CBS.
Instead, it will be streamed across Barstool’s multiple platforms like its website, app, and social media. The game pits members of the Mountain West Conference and the Mid-American Conference against each other.
“This is something I think the college football world is ready for,” Arizona Bowl executive director Kym Adair said.
They’re an intriguing couple, but they also come with a certain amount of risk. The safety of playing on ESPN or CBS while on vacation ensures that the eyes will find the game. Even though ratings for most sports are steadily declining, last year’s Arizona Bowl attracted around $ 1. 77 million viewers on CBS.
The Barstool deal is likely to mean the Arizona Bowl will have a lot less viewers.
What they lose in numbers, they hope to make up for in interaction and engagement.
“We’re not inhibited by a traditional way of doing things at Barstool Sports, so we can re-imagine the experience in a way that makes it more interactive and entertaining for fans,” said the CEO of Barstool, Erika Nardini, in an email. “The chance to bring our audience, our humor, our love of the game is something we are passionate about and we promise to give sports fans a reason to watch.”
The Arizona Bowl isn’t the only college sporting event exploring online-only options: The Notre Dame football season opener on September 11 against Toledo will air exclusively on Peacock, NBC’s streaming service.
Adair said there were several reasons she was excited about the Barstool partnership.
For starters, it keeps the Arizona Bowl in its desired location on New Years Eve. While broadcast rights are important, ticket sales and community engagement also matter. Adair said she wanted college football fans in Arizona to know the game will still be played on December 31, allowing families to plan vacations and family reunions and build a tradition.
Adair also said Barstool is doing remarkably well with the coveted 18- to 35-year-old demographic, which is notoriously hard to reach.
“Advertisers can’t find them, but Barstool has them,” Adair said. “There is incredible energy around the bowl right now and fans can’t wait to see Barstool’s take on a bowl game.”
Nick Carparelli is the Executive Director of Bowl Season, a non-profit organization that promotes the tradition of college football’s post-season system. He has worked in the NFL and for the Big East Conference, Under Armor and Notre Dame at various points in his career, which has given him a good understanding of college football trends.
He said he was intrigued by the Arizona Bowl’s partnership with Barstool. He added that it should also be attractive to NCAA student-athletes, who consume sports and media very differently from previous generations.
“There are newer bowls that are trying to grow, to develop a strong presence in their community, and they are able to be a little more creative in the way they market and brand themselves,” Carparelli said. . “The Arizona Bowl falls into that category. I thought it was very creative to partner with Barstool Sports.
“It certainly engages a different kind of audience than traditional college football, which is good for the game in general.”