After 21 years – and the longest reign as title sponsor of a BCS game -- FedEx is dropping its moniker from the Orange Bowl college football game.
Kevin Demsky, FedEx Director of Sponsorship Marketing, said the express delivery and logistics company decided it was time to focus on its other sports marketing partnerships, including the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup, and relationships with the NFL, NBA and NASCAR's Joe Gibbs Racing.
“Obviously it was a very difficult decision, one we labored over long and hard,” Demsky said. “We made the decision it was probably best for us to begin focusing on some of our other investments.”
ESPN, which will begin broadcasting BCS games in January under a four-year contract that runs through 2014, is working on finding a new corporate naming partner for the game played at Sun Life Stadium.
"We are in active discussions around the Orange Bowl, which is a premier property and presents a tremendous marketing opportunity,” ESPN's president of customer marketing and sales Ed Erhardt said in a statement. “FedEx remains an important client and we continue to be engaged with them in other areas."
ESPN declined further comment.
The Orange Bowl Committee, which promotes the game and its surrounding events, is not involved in title sponsorship negotiations, committee spokesman Larry Wahl said. The network and the BCS are responsible for bowl payouts, not the committee, he said.
“We’re going to fulfill our BCS agreement commitment and continue to work with BCS leadership and ESPN,” Wahl said. “We’re confident the network will secure a name sponsor that’s beneficial to all of us. What we do know is ESPN had an exclusive period to negotiate with FedEx. That exclusive period recently expired and ESPN has now actively expanded its conversations with other interested parties.”
Demsky said the decision to drop out as title sponsor was made earlier this year and the company is not sure if it will continue as a more limited sponsor of the Orange Bowl.
“Obviously, the Orange Bowl has been a long time partner and friend and we have some very deep seated relationships. From that perspective I think the Orange Bowl and the entire Orange Bowl festival and all the events that surround that BCS game are a very important part of the community for South Florida," Demsky said. "We’ll look at opportunities that might be available, but for right now, it’s probably much too early to speculate.”
Demsky said the decision had nothing to do with the matchups in recent Orange Bowl games, which have been criticized for their lack of luster, when the Orange Bowl isn’t hosting the national championship game.
“We don’t really get too involved in game matchups, that’s something that has to be worked out by the BCS and the bowl committees," he said. "Our focus has always been creating marketing programs around us that promote the Orange Bowl.”
The Orange Bowl committee announced FedEx as its game title sponsor in 1989 for the 1990 game -- before the Bowl Championship Series was formed in 1998. The Orange, Sugar, Rose and Fiesta bowls each host a BCS bowl game and the fifth BCS game is the national championship game, which rotates among the four bowls. The Orange Bowl next hosts the national championship game in 2013.