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5 Bowl Games With Peculiar Corporate Sponsors

Getty Images
Getty Images

College football's bowl season is here, and with it comes the annual cavalcade of baffling sponsorship deals. For much of college bowls' century-plus history, the postseason games carried humble monikers. The Sugar Bowl, Orange Bowl, Salad Bowl, and Refrigerator Bowl all accentuated just how much time bowl organizers spent in their kitchens frantically looking for something quotidian whose name they could slap on their bowl ("Have we named a game after the blender yet? Does anyone else think "˜Spatula Bowl' has a nice ring to it?") However, selling naming rights has become a hot business since the 1980s, and now most bowls' names are more market-driven than indicative of local color.

In honor of the corporate magic that now permeates almost every bowl, here are a few of our favorite bizarre corporate sponsorship and naming deals:

1. San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl

If you're like me, you were probably sitting around last Tuesday night mulling the logistics of a hypothetical move to San Diego. If I took a county job, where would I do my banking? I couldn't have been alone in this conundrum. The entire nation was wondering, and if they'd been watching the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl, they would have known. Does a local credit union really need the national exposure of sponsoring a bowl game? If you've got a more efficient idea for letting people in Vermont know about the 4.00% APY they could be earning with an average daily balance over $100,000 in the credit union's Money Market Max account, I'd like to hear it.

2. Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl

Similarly, a lack of brand awareness among the civilian public is among the biggest problems facing the manufacturers of high-end military aircraft. Sure, a company may make some of the very best attack helicopters money can buy, but when John Q. Public needs aerial artillery he's just going to walk into his local arms dealer's and pick out the first thing he sees that's on sale. Credit the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl for trying to break this cycle. The manufacturer of civilian and military helicopters (not to mention tiltrotors) gets a captive audience of football fans and potential government buyers when Air Force plays in the Fort-Worth-based bowl game this year.

3. MPC Computers Bowl/Roady's Humanitarian Bowl

Of course, some football fans would prefer a bowl that affiliates itself with a more sympathetic cause, like kindness or saving puppies. The marketing gurus at MPC Computers and the Humanitarian Bowl are not among them, though. When MPC bought the 2004-2006 naming rights for the game played on the trademark blue "Smurf Turf" of Boise's Bronco Stadium (below), "humanitarian" was dropped and the name was changed to the MPC Computers Bowl. The move spared the company from having its public image sullied by rumors of humanitarianism, thereby saving MPC from constantly being hit up for charitable donations like a bunch of suckers. By the time the bleeding hearts at Roady's Truck Stops acquired the naming rights for last year's game between Fresno State and Georgia Tech, the bowl had already reinstated the offending positive adjective; the game is now known at the Roady's Humanitarian Bowl.

4. galleryfurniture.com Bowl, EV1.net Bowl, Houston Bowl, etc.

Despite computer companies' naming chicanery, it's important to remember that the Internet boom made a plethora of sports advancements possible, particularly convenient fantasy football scoring, round-the-clock access to news and scores, and a host of questionable bowl sponsors. While many of the resulting names were cumbersome, nothing rolls off the tongue quite like the galleryfurniture.com Bowl, which was played in Houston's Astrodome in 2000 and 2001. In 2002, the name was changed to the rather uninspired Houston Bowl before Internet luminaries EV1.net took over title sponsorship from 2003-2005. The bowl then folded. However, this marketing fiasco was nowhere near the worst of Gallery Furniture founder Jim "Mattress Mack" McIngvale's career; in 1987 a chained lion used in promotions at a flea market owned by the furniture mogul mauled an 8-year-old girl.

5. homepoint.com Music City Bowl at Adelphia Coliseum/Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl at LP Field

At least these sponsors are still corporate entities, though. Fans who still wear their commemorative t-shirts from the 1999 homepoint.com Music City Bowl clash between Kentucky and Syracuse at Nashville's Adelphia Coliseum carry the names of not one, but two defunct companies on their chests. The game's title sponsor, a home furnishings website, is no longer around, and cable giant Adelphia filed for bankruptcy in 2002 after massive internal corruption. Investors in companies associated with the 2008 Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl at LP Field, take heed.

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General Mills
10 Winning Facts about Wheaties
General Mills
General Mills

Famous for its vivid orange boxes featuring star athletes and its classic "breakfast of champions" tagline, Wheaties might be the only cereal that's better known for its packaging than its taste. The whole wheat cereal has been around since the 1920s, becoming an icon not just of the breakfast aisle, but the sports and advertising worlds, too. Here are 10 winning facts about it.

1. IT WAS INVENTED BY ACCIDENT.

The Washburn Crosby Company wasn't initially in the cereal business. At the time, the Minnesota-based company—which became General Mills in 1928—primarily sold flour. But in 1921, the story goes, a dietitian in Minneapolis spilled bran gruel on a hot stove. The bran hardened into crispy, delicious flakes, and a new cereal was born. In 1924, the Washburn Crosby Company began selling a version of the flakes as a boxed cereal it called Washburn's Gold Medal Whole Wheat Flakes. A year later, after a company-wide contest, the company changed the name to Wheaties.

2. ITS JINGLE FEATURED A SINGING UNDERTAKER AND A COURT BAILIFF.

Wheaties sales were slow at first, but the Washburn Crosby Company already had a built-in advertising platform: It owned the Minneapolis radio station WCCO. Starting on December 24, 1926, the station began airing a jingle for the cereal sung by a barbershop quartet called the Wheaties Quartet. The foursome sang "Have You Tried Wheaties" live over the radio every week, earning $15 (about $200 today) per performance. In addition to their weekly singing gig, the men of the Wheaties Quartet all also had day jobs: One was an undertaker, one was a court bailiff, one worked in the grain industry, and one worked in printing. The ad campaign eventually went national, helping boost Wheaties sales across the country and becoming an advertising legend.

3. WHEATIES HAS BEEN TIED TO SPORTS SINCE ALMOST THE BEGINNING.

Carl Lewis signs a Wheaties box with his image on it for a young boy.
Track and field Olympic medalist Carl Lewis
Stephen Chernin, Getty Images

Wheaties has aligned itself with the sports world since its early days. In 1927, Wheaties bought ad space at Minneapolis's Nicollet Park, home to a minor league baseball team called the Millers, and in 1933, the cereal brand started sponsoring the team's game-day radio broadcasts on WCCO. Eventually, Wheaties baseball broadcasts expanded to 95 different radio stations, covering teams all over the country and further cementing its association with the sport. Since then, generations of endorsements from athletes of all stripes have helped sell consumers on the idea that eating Wheaties can make them strong and successful just like their favorite players. The branding association has been so successful that appearing on a Wheaties box has itself become a symbol of athletic achievement.

4. WHEATIES HELPED KICK-START RONALD REAGAN'S ACTING CAREER.

In the 1930s, a young sports broadcaster named Ronald Reagan was working at a radio station in Des Moines, Iowa, narrating Wheaties-sponsored Chicago Cubs and White Sox games. As part of this job, Reagan went to California to visit the Cubs' spring training camp in 1937. While he was there, he also did a screen test at Warner Bros. The studio ended up offering him a seven-year contract, and later that year, he appeared in his first starring role as a radio commentator in Love Is On The Air.

5. ATHLETES' PHOTOS DIDN'T ALWAYS APPEAR ON THE FRONT OF BOXES.

Three Wheaties boxes featuring Michael Phelps
Justin Sullivan, Getty Images

Although a Wheaties box wouldn't seem complete without an athlete's photo on it today, the cereal didn't always feature athletes front and center. In the early years, the boxes had photos of athletes like baseball legend Lou Gehrig (the first celebrity to be featured, in 1934) on the back or side panels of boxes. Athletes didn't start to appear on the front of the box until 1958, when the cereal featured Olympic pole vaulter Bob Richards.

6. THE FIRST WOMAN ON A WHEATIES BOX WAS A PILOT.

Former Track and Field Olympian Jackie Joyner-Kersey stands with a poster of her new Wheaties box after it was unveiled in 2004.
Former Track and Field Olympian Jackie Joyner-Kersey stands with a poster of her new Wheaties box after it was unveiled in 2004.
Stephen Chernin, Getty Images

Olympic gymnast Mary Lou Retton became the first woman to appear on the front of a Wheaties box in 1984, but women did appear elsewhere on the box in the brand's early years. The first was pioneering aviator and stunt pilot Elinor Smith. Smith, whose picture graced the back of the box in 1934, set numerous world aviation records for endurance and altitude in the 1920s and 1930s.

7. IT USED TO HAVE A MASCOT.

Though we now associate Wheaties with athletes rather than an animal mascot, the cereal did have the latter during the 1950s. In an attempt to appeal to children, Wheaties adopted a puppet lion named Champy (short for "Champion") as the brand's mascot. Champy and his puppet friends sang about the benefits of Wheaties in commercials that ran during The Mickey Mouse Club, and kids could order their own Champy hand puppets for 50 cents (less than $5 today) if they mailed in Wheaties box tops.

8. MICHAEL JORDAN IS THE WHEATIES KING.

Of all the athletes who have graced the cover of a Wheaties box, basketball superstar Michael Jordan takes the cake for most appearances. He's been featured on the box 18 times, both alone and with the Chicago Bulls. He also served as a spokesperson for the cereal, appearing in numerous Wheaties commercials in the '80s and '90s.

9. FANS ONCE GOT THE CHANCE TO PICK A WHEATIES STAR.

MMA star Anthony Pettis on the front of a Wheaties box.
Mike Mozart, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

The public hasn't often gotten a chance to weigh in on who will appear on the Wheaties box. But in 2014, Wheaties customers got to decide for the first time which athlete would be featured nationally. Called the Wheaties NEXT Challenge, the contest allowed people to vote for the next Wheaties Champion by logging their workouts on an app platform called MapMyFitness. Every workout of 30 minutes or more counted as one vote. Participants could choose between Paralympic sprinter Blake Leeper, motocross rider Ryan Dungey, mixed-martial-artist Anthony Pettis, lacrosse player Rob Pannell, or soccer player Christen Press. Pettis won, becoming the first MMA fighter to appear on the box in early 2015.

10. THERE WERE SEVERAL SPINOFFS THAT DIDN'T CATCH ON.

Three different Wheaties boxes featuring Tiger Woods sitting together on a table
Tiger Woods's Wheaties covers, 1998
Getty Images

Faced with declining sales, Wheaties introduced several spinoff cereals during the 1990s and early 2000s, including Honey Frosted Wheaties, Crispy Wheaties 'n Raisins, and Wheaties Energy Crunch. None of them sold very well, and they were all discontinued after a few years. The brand kept trying to expand its offerings, though. In 2009, General Mills introduced Wheaties Fuel, a version of the cereal it claimed was more tailored to men's dietary needs. Wheaties Fuel had more vitamin E and—unlike the original—no folic acid, which is commonly associated with women's prenatal supplements. Men didn't love Wheaties Fuel, though, and it was eventually discontinued too. Now, only the original "breakfast of champions" remains.

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TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX
The Sandlot Is Returning to Theaters for Its 25th Anniversary
TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX
TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX

Few films from the 1990s have grown in stature over the years like The Sandlot. Though it gained respectable reviews and box office receipts when it was released in April 1993, the movie's standing in pop culture has since ballooned into cult classic territory, and you can still find merchandise and even clothing lines dedicated to it today.

Now you can revisit the adventures of Smalls, Ham, Squints, and The Beast on the big screen when Fathom Events and Twentieth Century Fox, in association with Island World, bring The Sandlot back to theaters for its 25th anniversary. The event will be held in 400 theaters across the U.S. on July 22 at 1:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m., and Tuesday, July 24 at 2:00 p.m and 7:00 p.m. (all times local).

Each screening will come complete with a preview of a new documentary detailing the making of the movie, so if you wanted to know even more about how this coming-of-age baseball classic came to be, now’s your chance.

For more information about ticket availability in your area, head to the Fathom Events website. And if you want to dive into some more trivia about the movie—including the fact that it was filmed in only 42 days—we’ve got you covered.

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