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Copyright 2014 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Tim Tucker; Staff

Atlanta's college football bowl game celebrated its renaming Monday by dropping a large Chick-fil-A Bowl banner to the floor and revealing what hung behind it: the new logo of the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl.

The return of Peach to the bowl's name after an eight-year absence, as well as Chick-fil-A's new six-year agreement as title sponsor, was unveiled at an event that drew Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, College Football Playoff chief operating officer Michael Kelly and other dignitaries to Chick-fil-A's corporate headquarters.

While the name change was no surprise --- it was first reported by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution last week --- Monday's event served as the bowl's ceremonial transition from a mid-tier postseason game into a high-profile part of the four-team national playoff that starts this year.

"Having the College Football Playoff here will further elevate Atlanta's national profile as a sports mecca and the capital of college football," Reed said. "And (it) also proves our point that maybe having that new stadium helped out a little bit in the process."

The bowl is scheduled to move from the Georgia Dome into the $1.2 billion-plus Falcons stadium when it opens in 2017.

As part of the transition to the playoff era, Chick-fil-A negotiated a new title sponsorship deal with ESPN, which controls the naming and media rights to the six bowls that were chosen last year as rotating hosts of national semifinal games.

"It represented a major financial ramp-up," Chick-fil-A executive vice president and chief marketing officer Steve Robinson said of the deal. He wouldn't reveal financial terms, but the stakes were high enough that he briefed Truett Cathy, Chick-fil-A's founder and chairman emeritus, on the matter last year.

"His comment was, 'College football has been good for us. Sounds like a good idea to me,'" Robinson said.

The deal calls for increased Chick-fil-A advertising across ESPN networks and digital platforms. That, Robinson said, "is part of a broader national media strategy" by the company, which expects to have restaurants in 41 states by the end of this year and 47 or 48 states by 2020. In addition to the initial six-year term, the deal includes a renewal option for another six years.

Robinson said the negotiations with ESPN took about a year. Once that was done, it took about a week, he said, to negotiate a supplemental deal with local bowl officials.

Atlanta's bowl game was known as the Peach Bowl from 1968-96, the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl from 1997-2005 and the Chick-fil-A Bowl from 2006-13.

The reversion to Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl stemmed from playoff organizers' requirement that the Atlanta bowl get its name in sync with the others in the semifinal rotation, all of which include a moniker as well as a corporate sponsor: Allstate Sugar Bowl, Discover Orange Bowl, AT&T Cotton Bowl, Tostitos Fiesta Bowl and Rose Bowl Presented by Vizio.

Chick-fil-A Bowl officials tested other monikers as potential alternatives --- one option was Legacy --- before settling on Peach. The new bowl logo gives equal prominence to Chick-fil-A and Peach.

"It not only represents the beginning of our new era in the College Football Playoff, but also a reconnection to our history and tradition," Gary Stokan, president of the bowl, said.

The bowls that are part of the playoff will host a national semifinal game once every three years --- Atlanta's first semifinal will be in the 2016 season --- and non-playoff games matching highly ranked teams in the other years.

"The Chick-fil-A Bowl earned its spot in that rotation through a very competitive bid process last year," Kelly said. "It won because of this community and because of the history of this bowl in terms of attendance and ratings, but also because of its commitment to the student-athlete experience and fan experience."

ESPN executive Rob Temple called Atlanta "a city that has uniquely embraced college football," citing the bowl, the season-opening Chick-fil-A Kickoff game and the College Football Hall of Fame, which is scheduled to open in downtown Atlanta in late August.

Stokan took advantage of Monday's audience to reiterate that Atlanta has its sights set on hosting college football's national title game for the 2017 season in the new Falcons stadium. That game is expected to be awarded next year.

Turning to Kelly, the College Football Playoff executive, Stokan said: "Michael, get ready, because we're coming bidding for the national championship game to host it in Atlanta, too."


April 22, 2014




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