The Sun Bowl has a new sponsor, Kellogg’s Tony the Tiger, marking a new era for the nation’s second-oldest bowl game and one of the region’s biggest annual events.
The 86-year-old game will now be called the Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl, and the four-year contract with the food giant begins with this December’s game.
“To have Kellogg be our sponsor is absolutely, positively incredible,” said Jimmy Rogers, chair emeritus of the Sun Bowl Association. “They are a very high quality international company, for one thing. And to be our sponsor is almost unbelievable.”
By signing with Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes, the association ended its contract with the game’s previous sponsor, Hyundai, a year early. The 2019 game was originally slated to be sponsored by Hyundai and would have been the company’s 10th year of sponsorship.
Bernie Olivas, executive director of the Sun Bowl Association, said the organization and Hyundai came to a mutual agreement that allowed the Sun Bowl to go out and find a new title sponsor.
“They let us go out and find someone else and would step aside if we found someone,” Olivas said. “There was one year left on the contract. They stepped aside to allow us to have a title sponsor that would take us beyond the contract we had with Hyundai.”
The reason for the Sun Bowl Association’s announcement Tuesday was a closely guarded secret and was first reported over the weekend in El Paso Inc.’s Whispers column.
In the hours leading up to Kellogg’s announcement, the Sun Bowl Association’s website still showed Hyundai as its title sponsor. That changed soon after.
The deal between the Sun Bowl Association and Kellogg was brokered by Impression Sports & Entertainment, a Denver-based consultant group that matches bowl games with title sponsors. The sponsorship contracts are not made public and no details were released.
Oscar Leeser, former El Paso mayor and owner of Hyundai of El Paso, was at last week’s event announcing the new title sponsor.
“Anytime I do anything, I have El Paso first,” said Leeser who has taken steps to run for mayor again in 2020. “It’s exciting that someone who never had the opportunity to go to a bowl game as a child, because I couldn’t afford it, had the opportunity to be the title sponsor for nine years.
“It’s a great honor.”
Asked when he found out about the new title sponsor, Leeser said, “they kept it pretty well amongst themselves.”
Olivas said that although the contract ended a year early, he doesn’t believe the Sun Bowl Association has violated any terms of the contract.
A large sponsor like Kellogg opens up more opportunities for the Sun Bowl, including the possibility of attracting better teams and garnering more national name recognition, Olivas said.
“It gives us a lot of credibility, not that Hyundai didn’t,” he said. “It’s easier to negotiate with each team from the conferences. The better teams we get, the more people are gonna want to come to El Paso and have a positive economic impact on our economy.”
The Sun Bowl’s first title sponsor in 1986 was John Hancock, a national insurance company. After that, the game was sponsored by Norwest Bank, which bought out Wells Fargo. The title sponsor then became Wells Fargo, followed by Vitalis and Brut, which are both owned by El Paso-based Helen of Troy.
Sun Bowl sponsors are one of the sources of revenue for the association, Olivas said. Other sources include ticket sales, TV rights and the rental car tax.
Bowl sponsors provide financial support for the association to attract teams to El Paso and pay associated fees. They also usually make some philanthropic commitments to the community.
Kellogg has announced initiatives to provide funding and equipment, such as uniforms or basketball hoops, for at-risk middle school sports programs.
Brant Wheaton, marketing director of Kellogg’s ready-to-eat cereal segment, said the Mission Tiger initiative was launched to help kids continue playing.
“Through this partnership, we’re putting Tony the Tiger on the national stage,” Wheaton said. “We believe every kid has the chance and the right to play.”
Email El Paso Inc. reporter Sara Sanchez at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (915) 534-4422, ext. 105.