10 Companies That Should Become College Football Sponsors

David Luther@@davidrlutherFeatured ColumnistMarch 21, 2012

10 Companies That Should Become College Football Sponsors

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    In the ever-increasing battle for money in college football, we often forget that much of that money comes from corporate sponsors.

    It is, after all, the corporations that spends tens of millions every season to attract millions of customers while simultaneously increasing the cash flow available to the NCAA, conferences, bowls and, eventually, the programs themselves.

    But some companies still haven't seen fit to jump on the college football bandwagon, or at least not in any significant way.

    The reasons vary, but here are 10 companies that should become college football sponsors.

The Big Three

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    The American auto industry took it in on the chin over the past three or four years.

    While there are many reasons for the downturn of Detroit—reasons politicians and pundits still argue over—it's clear that the Big Three are beginning to emerge from the dark days of bankruptcy and bailouts.

    Auto workers always have been proud of what they do, and it's about time the great American auto industry returns to the college football world.

    After 2009, the Big Three stopped sponsoring the Motor City Bowl (now the Little Caesar's Pizza Bowl). But as college students graduate and get that first “real” job, they'll soon be looking for that first new car.

    It would be great if that new car was made right here in the good old USA.

Facebook

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    There's probably not a single college student in the United States that doesn't have a Facebook account.

    But Facebook—the brainchild of college kids—is quickly becoming a “grown-up” company. In fact, Facebook is rapidly moving toward its IPO, or initial public offering of stock, making it—at long last—a public company.

    While the geniuses behind Facebook stand to make literally billions of dollars for their creation, the move to a publicly-traded company will mean that Facebook can't simply rely on the continued use by college-age, 20 and 30-somethings to move to the next level.

    Cash is the name of the game, and advertisers is what Facebook will be after. What better way to make an impact than by advertising to the potential future advertisers? Advertising is, after all, about the only substantial income stream for this company, which may quickly find itself valued at more than $100 billion.

    If Facebook joins the college football advertising game, it truly will signal its arrival on the big stage of adult companies.

    And it probably wouldn't hurt the image of those billionaire brainiacs in Silicon Valley to show a little interest in good, old-fashioned, red-blooded football.

Nintendo

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    Remember when Nintendo was the coolest thing on the planet?

    Remember those endless hours of World 8-4, or trying—in vain—to shoot that dog who laughed at you, or how excited you were when you got your first Game Boy, which weighed about 10 pounds and had a battery life of about four seconds?

    Nintendo hasn't quite gone the way of Sega and consoles still roll off the assembly lines. But Nintendo has certainly lost its edge in the video-game market.

    While we'll always cherish the great franchises, like Mario and Zelda, Nintendo is seen now as a quaint system geared more toward kids and the nostalgia-seekers. The PS3 and Xbox 360 is where it's at, and the hard-core college gamers probably spend as much time on those two systems than they do in actual class.

    Nintendo needs to recapture its youth—and the youth of America—if it is to avoid the demise of its console business.

    A new, less cartoony platform would be a good first step.

Amway

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    For more than 50 years, Amway has been pumping out household products.

    But unlike most of its direct competition, Amway's unusual style of business had confounded opponents while making a number of dedicated people pretty wealthy.

    For most of the first 50 years, the company did its advertising only through word of mouth. Its army of distributors was its main driving force.

    But this company started in a garage in Grand Rapids, Mich., has grown into the top online retailer of health and beauty products in North America.

    Amway also has ditched its old way of advertising and opted for a more modern, multi-media approach. Today, you can see Amway commercials on television, in magazines or on billboards. Orlando even built Orlando Magic's owner Rich DeVos—co-founder of Amway—a new arena for his team, and it's named Amway Arena.

    But Amway's crop of distributors is aging, and what better way to invigorate the company than with some fresh-faced, bright-eyed, optimistic recent college graduates?

    Sponsoring college football might even win Amway some much-needed brand recognition in areas where names like XS Energy Drink and SA8 aren't quite household names.

Dick's Sporting Goods

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    It's a little unusual that a massive company that is solely dedicated to sporting goods isn't a much, much larger presence on the college football scene.

    Sure, we see commercials for Dick's, but when was the last time Dick's actually sponsored a game, a bowl, a team, a conference?

    If this Fortune 500 company can host the Dick's Sporting Goods Open on the PGA Tour, it can certainly sponsor at least a bowl game, don't you think?

Farmers Insurance

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    When it comes to insurance companies, there are some with which every college football fan has become familiar.

    Allstate, of course, is seen at nearly every college football game with its ubiquitous logo on pretty much every field-goal net in the nation.

    GEICO has even gotten into the game with its “Best of College FootballFacebook voting for Play of the Year.

    Progressive even got in on the action by sponsoring the Gator Bowl for a very brief time.

    But one of the largest insurance companies in America is nowhere to be found when it comes to the game we all love.

    Farmers Insurance has recently stepped up its advertising campaigns around the nation with the witty “University of Farmers” commercials. All of us can hear the tag-line jingle in our heads constantly, “We are Insurance. We are Farmers! Bum, ba-dum, bum, bum, bum, bum!”

    With some of the funniest commercials on TV today, why isn't Farmers taking a more visible role in college football advertising?

    Farmers has a goal of expanding into a truly nationwide insurer, so it makes sense to begin sponsoring the sport more people watch on a weekly basis than any other.

Burger King

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    This may sound kind of silly, but Burger King could use a little extra publicity right now.

    And it's not like “The Home of the Whopper” would be the only fast-food chain in the game—the famous Peach Bowl is now the Chick-fil-A Bowl.

    A lot of press ink was spent this past week noting the dethroning of the King as the nation's No. 2 burger joint by Wendy's.

    While neither BK nor Wendy's is probably close to knocking McDonald's off the top rung, it's clear that Burger King needs to do something to gain an edge. Sponsoring college football could be just that something.

    It's not like college football fans don't like fast food, and Burger King already comes supplied with its own college football-esque mascot!

Apple

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    Let's face it, Apple Inc. has become the world's largest company, and has even decided to pay its shareholders a hefty dividend (for the first time since Steve Jobs put an end to the practice in the 1990s).

    Apple has become a company known for cool tech and ground-breaking innovation. The focus of the company has even shifted in the past decade, as the name change—from Apple Computer to simply Apple—shows.

    Since every hip college student worth his social salt has an iPhone, iPad, and Mac, and Apple clearly has enough cash to spread around these days (by some reports, Apple has more cash on hand than the U.S. government), why not spend a little by boosting its presence in college football?

Microsoft

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    Since we've mentioned corporate behemoth Apple, it's probably only fair that we mention former arch-rival Microsoft.

    Apple and Microsoft were once locked in a no-holds-barred cage match of death, where lawsuits and accusations of intellectual property theft ran rampant.

    But as Apple diversified from a simple computer company, that rivalry seems to have softened considerably over the past decade or so.

    But Microsoft, as far ahead as it is in areas such as desktop software and gaming, lags far behind Apple in gadgets. Microsoft's answer to the iPod—the Zune—was a bust. Microsoft now faces a similarly late-to-the-party gadget as the software giant tries to take a bite out of Apple's cell phone market share with the Windows Phone.

    Windows Phone vs. iPhone? Good luck with that.

    But if there's one thing Microsoft can do to help its perception as a “one-step-behind” type of company, it would be to get these fairly unknown gadgets into the hands of college kids.

    One sure-fire way to go about that is to begin a massive sponsorship of a program, conference, or bowl.

    Windows Phones in bowl swag bags, anyone?

NBC

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    In the high-pressure, multimillion dollar world of college football broadcasting, there's one television network that lags far behind all of its competitors.

    The National Broadcasting Company—NBC—is well known as the exclusive television network of Notre Dame football. Unfortunately, NBC only has the rights to home games at Notre Dame, and not much else.

    Most other FBS programs are locked into their respective conference's television contracts, which are by and large split between ABC/ESPN, Fox and CBS (with the Big Ten being a notable exception, having a completely separate, independent and proprietary network).

    None of the other FBS independents (Army, Navy and BYU) carry anywhere near enough weight to warrant a weekly national television audience on a major network.

    So, in the end, we have NBC missing out on the vast majority of college football programming during the year.

    NBC has recently re-branded “Versus” into the “NBC Sports Network,” and has shown consistent ability to provide the highest level of sports programing with the Golf Channel, the NFL, NBA, NHL, and Olympics—not to mention several other sports.

    That NBC is almost completely missing the very large and very lavish college football boat is almost unthinkable.