Prior to this year’s Russell Athletic Bowl (which my Scarlet Knights unfortunately lost), I had the chance to interview Gary Barfield, Executive VP of Russell Brands, LLC. I asked him several questions about how the title sponsorship of this bowl game fits into Russell Athletic’s overall marketing strategy.
How did you decide that a bowl sponsorship was a good strategic decision for Russell Athletic?
Gary: When the opportunity presented itself to us, it was an obvious decision. Given our long history, Russell Athletic has been a part of college football practically since the game began and a premier college football bowl game is a great marketing platform for us.
What was it about this specific bowl game that was most attractive to you?
Gary: The Russell Athletic Bowl will feature two leading college football teams in a packed stadium in front of a national television audience on ESPN and we are excited to add our name to such a premier bowl. Also, Orlando is a great host city and has fantastic people and have been nothing but first-class to us since the beginning.
Is there something about the current business climate that made it the right time for this move?
Gary: We thought it was the right time and opportunity. For us, this event will reinforce, to consumers, athletic directors, coaches and players of all levels, that Russell Athletic performs on the field of play and our quality and performance are second to none.
What metrics or objectives will you measure to help determine if this sponsorship is successful?
Gary: We will obviously be taking everything into account, with an obvious focus on it being the first year and setting benchmarks for future years. Russell Athletic will receive national exposure through television, radio and online media, and will be recognized in broadcast, outdoor and print advertising throughout Central Florida. Russell Athletic will also enjoy a presence on in-stadium signage and at the entire week’s schedule of Russell Athletic Bowl-related events, as well as a significant hospitality program for clients and customers.
How valuable is the hospitality that comes with being a title sponsor, and how will you use it?
Gary: We are taking full advantage of all that the event has to offer and have a multitude of guests, business partners, customers and dealers partaking in the various great activities over the couple days in Orlando.
How does this fit into the overall marketing strategy for Russell Athletic?
Gary: The exposure from the Russell Athletic Bowl will allow the brand to be seen by millions of consumers and provide us the opportunity to put our iconic logo in front of countless athletic directors, coaches and players of all levels. The Russell Athletic Bowl also allows us to further extend our “Together We R” brand campaign in new ways, while reinforcing that Russell Athletic performs on the field of play and our quality and performance are second to none.
Is there extra value for the brand in this type of deal in that Nike and Reebok are not bowl sponsors?
Gary: I can’t speak for the business strategies of our competitors, however as a brand whose heritage is deeply-rooted in college football, it is a natural fit for Russell Athletic to join the Florida Citrus Sports family as title sponsor of this premier bowl game. Additionally and again, sponsorship of the game and the associated media assets allows the Russell Athletic brand to be seen by millions of consumers as well as athletic directors, coaches and players of all levels.
How do the actual bowl participants potentially impact the value of this sponsorship?
Gary: We are extremely excited to have two great programs like Virginia Tech and Rutgers playing in the game. You know going with the tie-in with the ACC and Big East you will be drawing from a great group of teams.
What types of activation do you have planned around the bowl game?
Gary: We have several television spots that will run during the game, and on-site we will be taking full advantage of all the exposure opportunities the event provides. We will also be doing Russell Athletic gear drops via social media, and some other unique and fun activations.