Discover Latest Marketer to Drop Sponsorship of College Bowl Game

Tostitos and Vizio Have Also Relinquished Big-Time Deals

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Discover Financial Services has ended its title sponsorship of college football's Orange Bowl, a company spokesman has confirmed.

The credit card giant, which has been the top corporate partner of the annual game for the past four seasons, joined Tostitos among brands opting out of their sponsorship deals with some of the sport's top bowl games.

Discover's title sponsorships of the game, previously part of the Bowl Championship Series, cost about $16 million annually, including season-long advertising on ESPN, according to Chicago-based sponsorship consulting firm IEG.

Card members also got benefits and ticket offers each year at the Orange Bowl game under the deal.

Capital One is slated to take over title sponsorship of the Orange Bowl, according to Sports Business Journal.

Discover departs as the Orange Bowl game becomes part of the new four-team College Football Playoff, which will determine the national champion beginning with the upcoming season.

Six bowl games will rotate in hosting semifinal games in the CFP before the winners move on to play in the College Football Championship Game.

"Under the new college football playoff system, we have decided not to renew our sponsorship with the Orange Bowl," Discover spokesman Matt Towson said in a statement. "We remain committed to supporting interests that our customers are passionate about, including our sponsorships of the National Hockey League, Six Flags and Notre Dame football on NBC."

The biggest factor in dropping the deal may have been money.

The asking prices for title sponsorships to the playoff games are likely in the range of $20 million to $25 million per year depending on the game rotation, according to an estimate from at Chicago-based sports marketing agency Revolution.

Those prices are a result of ESPN reportedly paying $5.6 billion for the rights to broadcast the playoff games over the next 12 years.

"Somebody was going to get stuck with that bill," said Revolution Exec VP Larry Mann, who heads the company's media business. "And unfortunately -- or fortunately -- college football is really popular right now, and the brands are the ones that are left to support that."

Another factor may have been Discover's recent switch from Group M's Mediacom to Aegis Group PLC's Carat as its media agency of record, said Mr. Mann, who said he was surprised to see the company drop its title sponsorship after just four years.

"There were a lot of synergistic ties," he said. "They left some equity on the table."

In addition to Discover and Tostitos, TV brand Vizio recently ended its title sponsorship of the Rose Bowl, which was picked up by Northwestern Mutual.

Danny Ecker is a reporter for Crain's Chicago Business.

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