Rivalry games offer sponsors a unique opportunity

Rivalry week for the year’s college football season is finally here. For intrastate rivalries such as the Civil War between Oregon and Oregon State to the Egg Bowl between Mississippi and Mississippi State, bragging rights and a potential berth in the inaugural College Football Playoff are on the line. In addition to all the battles for state supremacy such as the Iron Bowl between Auburn and Alabama, Michigan v. Ohio State, one of college football’s best rivalries, is poised to write another chapter in the history books as well.

These rivalry games attract highly engaged alumni and fans from each school and in many instances curious casual fans that tune in for the pomp and circumstance that accompanies these contests between often bitter adversaries. This fact isn’t often missed by those companies that covet highly engaged audiences and high profile events. As a result, corporate sponsors have gravitated toward many of these games due to the increased level of exposure they bring. Here’s a look at a few of the corporate sponsors, both past and present, that have been attached to some of the rivalries in college football.

Note: Some sponsorships extended beyond football to include all matchups between the schools.

Oklahoma v. Texas – AT&T Red River Showdown

Red River

Sponsor: AT&T

This annual game between conference rivals at the Cotton Bowl has been known by many names, including the most recent, the Red River Showdown. Played in early October, this year’s version of the battle between neighboring state Big-12 foes saw Oklahoma edge Texas 31-26. SBC was the game’s initial sponsor in 2000, with AT&T gaining control once the companies merged in 2005.

Oregon v. Oregon State – Civil War Series


Sponsors include: Wells Fargo, McDonalds, PacificSource Health Plans, and local Ford dealers

Wells Fargo signed a contract in 2012 to become a presenting partner of the Civil War series between the University of Oregon and Oregon State University. As the series label suggests, the competition between these schools goes far beyond the football field. Each school receives points for their results against each other in sports which include: football, men’s and women’s basketball, volleyball, baseball, and softball. In addition to Wells Fargo, PacificSource Health Plans, and local McDonalds and Ford Dealers have activations tied to the intrastate competition.

Arizona v. Arizona State – Territorial Cup Series



Past sponsor: State Farm

The Territorial Cup is similar to the Civil War Series between fellow Pac-12 schools, Oregon and Oregon State. Each school receives points for all NCAA Division I sports in which both schools partake. State Farm Insurance sponsored the series when it began in 2009, with that alignment ultimately ending in of the 2011-12 season. With both teams returning to relevance in football and Arizona’s traditional strength in basketball, the schools should have a lot to sell a new series sponsor.


Missouri v. Arkansas – Battle Line Rivalry


Sponsor: Shelter Insurance

As the saying goes, when conference realignment kills a rivalry (so long Texas v. Texas A&M), another one is born. Newly minted SEC East team Missouri has found a willing partner in SEC West team Arkansas. Since the states share a border and apparently a contentious past related to that border, there may be sparks of a real battle brewing here. Since Shelter Insurance has pledged support through a presenting sponsorship, there may be upside to this upstart rivalry.


Michigan v. Ohio State – The Game

Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports
Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

(Very) Brief Sponsor: SBC

Last but not least, “The Game,” as each school’s alumni calls it, once had a sponsor – at least for a couple of days. Almost as soon as the schools announced the sponsorship deal, enraged alumni forced each athletic department to rethink the partnership. While SBC didn’t ultimately hold onto its alignment with this historic rivalry, the fan passion and engagement that came out of their brief association shows how valuable it can be if the right fit is found.

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