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What’s In a Bid: How Cities Land and Prepare to Host the College Football Playoff National Championship Game

Years of preparation culminate in a week-long celebration of college football, the fans, and the best teams in the country.

Adam White

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Miami-South Florida will host the 2021 College Football Playoff National Championship (Photo via the CFP)

Hosting the College Football Playoff National Championship takes a coordinated effort across host committees, cities, teams, and organizers, and although the festivities last just over a week, the preparation for the biggest game of the college football season begins years in advance. From Miami-South Florida and Indianapolis to Los Angeles and Houston, host committees for the 2021-2024 national championship games have put months, and sometimes years, into scoring the big game for their community.

How do they do it? What does the process look like? Come with us as we take a look inside what it is like to go from Request For Proposal (RFP) to being awarded a game, and what it means for the city.

The RFP Process

Arguably the most strenuous part of the process is the RFP. From collecting the correct amount of data, to being able to use that data to pitch a city as the best to host the game is a challenging endeavor.

“For a mega event like CFP, there is an extremely comprehensive request for information on just about every facet of the community, from venue information to accommodations to public safety and everything in between,” said Janis Schmees Burke, CEO of the Harris County – Houston Sports Authority. “The challenge comes, not from collecting and articulating that information into a proposal, but rather doing it a way that truly tells the unique story of the community you represent and then matching the region’s attributes to the specific needs of the event.”

Not only does the process require immense amounts of data and sometimes even years of planning, but rallying the support of the city is paramount for the bid to have any chance of success during the RFP process.

“We also try to find ways to connect our community in a tangible way and leave a lasting legacy as a benefit of hosting,” said Burke. “We work years in advance on some bids, while other ones are a quick turnaround.”

Luckily for many of the communities, having previous experiences with big games can pay dividends during the RFP process. Miami-South Florida, the host of the 2021 game, has a long history of hosting Super Bowls, New Year’s Six bowl games, and national championships, something the host committee says played a part in being able to earn the opportunity to host another game.

“With the experience of participating in previous CFPNCG bid efforts, we patiently awaited the next opportunity to submit the bid for this cycle,” said Michael Chavies, Chairman of the 2021 College Football Playoff National Championship Game Bid Committee. “Although we had a shorter period of time (approximately six weeks) to put our response together, our proactive preparation and organization were crucial to our ability to finally succeed.”

During the process, getting feedback from the College Football Playoff is key to the overall success of a bid and the timely nature of a submission. Led by Kathryn Schloessman, President of the Los Angeles Sports & Entertainment Commission, for the team out of LA, it was this kind of feedback that they believe allowed them to submit the best bid possible.

Los Angeles will host the 2023 CFP National Championship (Image via the CFP)

“What was good about this process is that we were getting feedback on what we were doing, what we needed to do, what we needed to change, so we weren’t guessing on what they were looking for, we were getting specific feedback into what they wanted so we could change our bid.”

As tedious as the RFP process can be on host committees, the ability to bring a marquee event to their city is well worth the time. For the selected communities, the work is just beginning.

Being Awarded the Game and Planning for the Future

With the RFP in the past, and host cities now beginning to gear up for games that are only a few years away, the extra lead time can provide major dividends for the committees and their constituents.

“Having five years to prepare is a wonderful advantage, as it will allow us to have discussions with the CFP to determine if there are adjustments or additions they would like to make for the event,” said Susan Baughman, Senior VP of Strategy & Operations at the Indiana Sports Corp. “We believe it also gives us the opportunity to work with the CFP to develop programs with deep ties to the community.”

Indianapolis will host the 2022 CFP National Championship (Photo via the CFP)

Beyond pure logistics, much of the preparation goes into educating communities about the event and what it means for the city, as well as making sure that the city’s constituents are provided with benefits beyond just having the eyes of a country on you.

“Our biggest goal is to educate the marketplace so everybody knows what the College Football Playoff National Championship is, given that it’s only in its fourth year,” said Schloessman.

It is this education that provides the foundation for making sure the best event possible is thrown.

“It is very important. Getting the legs of support and getting support behind how this is good for the city and the financials behind it is key and the lead-time helps,” added Schloessman. “You don’t want to have too much lead time, but for us to get all our ducks in order by 2023 to make sure we are in the best position financially to throw the best CFP event yet is critical.”

Having three to six years of lead time allows the selected cities the ability to continue to build community interest, education, and make the right adjustments so come January of their chosen year, the game can go off without a hitch.

Importance of Local Relationships

While having a compelling storyline and sales pitch for your city is great, as these host committees know, their bids wouldn’t have been selected without the backing of key constituents in each of their cities.

“We were lucky in the fact that we had done all the groundwork when it came to looking at all these ancillary venues and evaluating where the best places to put things would be,” added Schloessman when talking about why the bid process for LA went smoothly. “We had already made our inroads with all the particular people we needed to get in touch with.”

For Miami, a city built on big events, entertainment, and tourism, the backing, while expected given their track record, is still the most important part of the bid.

“When preparing a bid response for College Football Playoff National Championship, relationships with local officials and constituents are tremendously important and absolutely key to a successful result,” added Chavies. “In a monumental effort such as this, everyone has to be fully dedicated and on the same page in order to succeed.”

Houston will host the 2024 CFP National Championship (Photo via the CFP)

Even though getting the backing of key stakeholders is key, for cities like Houston, the support of the community and the residents living there is just as important.

“So much of the success that Houston has experienced in hosting sporting events is a true testament to the comprehensive support that our community provides,” said Burke. “It includes every resident of the Greater Houston Area which flows down from the immense level of support that our elected officials have provided over the years, as well as the local citizens that volunteer and show up in a big way.”

From volunteers all the way up to elected officials, events like the College Football Playoff National Championship wouldn’t go on without an immense amount of backing, and it is this support that can make or break a city’s bid for a marquee event or game.

What Being Awarded the Game Means for the Cities

When it all comes down to it, being awarded an event like the College Football Playoff National Championship comes with great responsibility, but also the opportunity to showcase your city and the best it has to offer to the thousands of people who make the journey and the millions watching on TV.

“The College Football Playoff National Championship will have a significant positive impact to residents and businesses while putting Indianapolis on a national stage as a great place to live, work and visit,” said Baughman. “National events like the CFP provide unique experiences through volunteer opportunities or once-in-a-lifetime experiences as a fan in your hometown, as well as building great civic pride as we entertain a nation of college football fans.”

Outside of the opportunity to showcase the city on a national scale, the economic impact for an event like the College Football Playoff National Championship extends far beyond just game day.

“An event of this magnitude and prestige provides our community with not only a great sense of civic pride, but also a tremendous economic boon to the area,” added Chavies. “Tourism is vital to our economy, and this provides an incredible opportunity to showcase our region and attract visitors from all over the country and provide them with every reason to return.”

Hosting the game also allows football-crazed areas like Houston to be the pinnacle of the season, something that community leaders believe is one of the greatest benefits.

“Houston is football crazy, whether it’s our professional team or the multiple universities in town, we live and breathe football,” explained Burke. “Having an entire college football season culminate in its pinnacle event right here in our own backyard is a powerful experience that our community has embraced with arms wide open.”

And for areas like LA that typically see a slowdown in traffic during the winter months, hosting the national championship game gives the city a chance to throw its collective weight at an event of this stature.

“It is a great opportunity for us to bring a massive audience to the area at a time of year that it is so slow because of the fact it is so close to the holiday season, so this is one of the windows of the year where we want events like this,” said Schloessman.

Although it only lasts close to 4 hours, preparation for the College Football Playoff National Championship begins months, if not years, in advance to accommodate the thousands of fans and hundreds of media members that descend upon the cities of choice.

It is this preparation, along with the coordinated support of the CFP, its partners, and the community partners of the event that have allowed the game to grow in stature and prestige.

So to Miami-South Florida, Houston, Indy, and LA, the floor is yours. Let’s see what you got.

Adam is the Founder and CEO of Front Office Sports. A University of Miami Alum, Adam has worked for opendorse, the Fiesta Bowl, and the University of Miami Athletic Department. He can be reached at adam@frntofficesport.com.

College Athletics

How College Football Bowl Games Provide Experiences and Impact Beyond the Game

College football bowl games provide not only an experience for players and coaches, but also are an avenue for impact on the host cities.

Jarrod Barnes

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Photo via Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl

With the large majority of the 40 college football bowl games already completed, postseason competition has certainly lived up to the hype.

For example, while not every game has featured traditional powerhouses, over 3.3 million viewers tuned into this year’s Las Vegas Bowl featuring Fresno State and Arizona State — both of whom welcomed a payout of $1.35 million for participating.

Outside of the revenue generated, bowl games offer more than just a chance to end the season with a victory, but rather a unique experience for players, coaches, and fans. In one fun instance, the Capital One Orange Bowl created a personalized bobblehead of each student-athlete who participated in this year’s game.

To put this all in perspective, media coverage and game highlights can overshadow the overall experience bowl games provide to student-athletes. Here are three examples of players enjoying activities beyond the game and off the field this postseason.

Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl: Toledo Rockets vs. FIU Panthers

One of the youngest and most unique bowl games, the Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl was certified in May of 2014 and is the lone bowl game where fans need a passport to travel.

The Toledo Rockets and FIU Panthers had an opportunity to make a difference off the field prior to their game last week by participating in two community outreach events in the capital of Nassau. Both teams visited the Ranfurly Home for Children, where players enjoyed basketball, foot races, and volleyball with the children residing there.

READ MORE: Inside the Event Management Playbook for College Football Bowl Games

“For someone like me, I have never been out of the United States until now, so I can speak firsthand on the importance of staying disciplined and watching things work in your favor,” said Willie Ross Jr., a junior defensive tackle for the Toledo Rockets.

Richard Giannini, the executive director of the Bahamas Bowl, took things a step further and donated 3,000 bowl tickets to students in New Providence in an effort to introduce Bahamian students to the game of American football. Within a span of four years, the Bahamas Bowl has pumped over $23,000,000 into the Bahamian economy and even convinced the Bahamian Minister of Education to introduce TackleBar Football into schools on a trial basis.

Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl: Florida Gators vs. Michigan Wolverines

Making an impact on the community is important, but another reward of the bowl experience is player hospitality events.

The Gators and Wolverines enjoyed competition outside of this past weekend’s Peach Bowl in the event’s Battle of Bowl Week, featuring go-kart racing, a basketball challenge and other events designed for players to have fun.

“We think of it as a reward for the players,” said Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl President and CEO Gary Stokan. “They’re the ones preparing through the winter, spring, summer, and then playing in the fall. They deserve to be treated first-class. We have a theme we use: live, laugh and learn.”

Players also squared off at the Andretti Indoor Karting facility with high-speed super carts and then in a basketball challenge at the team hotel.

“(Entering the week), we (set) a competition every night for the belt, and whoever won the cumulative rankings got the belt to take home with them,” Stokan said. “We’ve seen that belt in a lot of different places. The guys really get into the Battle for Bowl Week belt.”

In addition to competing, Stokan and the Peach Bowl committee also placed a high value on providing an educational experience as well.

“We wanted them to learn,” Stokan said. “We had Congressman (John) Lewis and Andy Young and C.T. Vivian, who are three of the top eight people in Dr. King’s Civil Rights movement. They talked about leadership. We did it in Ebenezer Baptist Church, where Dr. King spoke. And we had both teams sit together, which is a no-no in the bowl business. So it’s a living history lesson.”

While the Peach Bowl offered one of the highly anticipated, marquee matchups this season, the impact of the bowl experience was felt far beyond the playing field.

RedBox Bowl: Michigan State Spartans vs. Oregon Ducks

Not to be overshadowed by this year’s College Football Playoff National Championship Game, the San Francisco Bay Area is also host to an annual bowl game. After four previous name changes since the game’s inception in 2002, the Bay Area’s college football bowl game was renamed the Redbox Bowl earlier this year following a multi-year deal with the new-release movie and video-game rental company.

READ MORE: Inside the Meteoric Rise of College Football Games

“The Redbox Bowl is thrilled to welcome two storied college football brands with shared history like Oregon and Michigan State to play in front of a primetime national audience at Levi’s Stadium,” said Ryan Oppelt, executive director of the RedBox Bowl and director of the Bay Area Host Committee. “The Ducks and Spartans have large alumni contingents in the Bay Area, so we couldn’t ask for a better way to kick off an incredible week of postseason football.”

Players attended a premiere matchup this week at Oracle Arena between the Golden State Warriors and the Portland Trail Blazers. Several Michigan State players were welcomed by Spartans alumnus and current Warriors star Draymond Green after the game.

Student-athletes were also given a tour of the world famous Alcatraz Prison on Alcatraz Island. Outside of sightseeing, both Oregon and Michigan State players volunteered to help those in need at GLIDE and St. Anthony’s in San Francisco ahead of Monday afternoon’s tilt.

As you can see through just a small handful of examples, bowl games provide not only an experience for players and coaches, but also are an avenue for impact on the host cities, local communities, and even countries that participate. The level of responsibility for sports commissions and planning committees is high, but the outcomes can create memories far beyond the game.

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A Huge Gap in Economic Impact Numbers Begs the Question: Are Bowl Games Worth It?

A significant economic impact gap between the more than 40 bowl games leaves professors wondering if they’re all worth it.

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The amount a college football bowl game brings in to its respective community varies greatly — so much so, the events can economically be stratified into at least five tiers.

A 2016 economic impact study of the previous season’s 41 bowl games found a top tier of the major events, such as the Rose Bowl, can have a seven-to-eight-figure economic impact, said Carl Winston, program director the Payne School of Hospitality & Tourism Management at San Diego State University.

The Football Bowl Association commissioned SDSU and George Washington University to perform the study, which found the total impact of the season’s 41 contests was $1.5 billion annually.

“You go down the tiers and it drops pretty fast,” Winston said.

Along with the 2016 nationwide study, SDSU regularly looks at the local impact of the Holiday Bowl and the Poinsettia Bowl, which was discontinued in 2017.

“San Diego, we’re in the $20 million range, depending on the year,” he said. “We’re mid-tier, and there’s plenty of others generating $5 million and not doing a lot.”

The Peach Bowl in Atlanta has an average economic impact of $37 million, Georgia State University Economics Professor Bruce Seaman said. When Atlanta hosted the NCAA National Championship last January, however, the impact was nearly $70 million.

READ MORE: How Cities Prepare to Host the College Football Playoff National Championship Game

The economic impacts in the communities around them are often low earlier in the bowl season, but there are benefits to teams and leagues. Also, cities with plenty of football and hospitality infrastructure can host them with relatively little cost.

Seaman said Orlando can host the Cure Bowl without much burden. In not too many words, a bowl game being worth it or not is a complicated issue with no real solution.

“If the NCAA can wring any additional money out of them, the conferences are certainly happy,” Seaman said. “The incremental cost is not all that much, so it can be modest and justified.”

Large sponsors are also hard to come by, Winson said, with only the major bowls bringing in high-paying marquee sponsorships. The larger bowls tend to have complex activations around them, often turning into a whole week, which helps extend the spending of visitors.

Bowl-game payout often determines the teams playing, which, in turn, is tied to the economic impact. Teams like Alabama, Michigan and Notre Dame have large fan bases willing to travel and spend money.

There are also factors, like if the game is run by a local organization. In Atlanta, Chick-fil-A runs the Peach Bowl and the ticket money stays in state. When the NCAA or NFL comes to town, the ticket money flows out, Seaman said.

All those extra factors can create confusion when professors across the country are putting together economic impact studies about the bowl games. He wants there to be some form of a general consensus in how to put those numbers together.

READ MORE: Economic Benefits of Hosting the NCAA Tournament

“We need to get some consensus of a model so everyone is on the same page,” he said. “So, we’re not playing the game of biggest impact, which can come from all sorts of methods with little ways to manipulate. It’d be nice to have a common, if not the same, model being used so we can agree on the thing always accounted for.”

In looking at the economics of bowl games, it make sense for the NCAA to continue to expand, but that doesn’t mean Seaman believes there aren’t too many events. In fact, he does think there are too many. Eventually, he believes, others will come to similar conclusions.

“It’ll end when cities look at it and say it’s just a hassle to consider hosting,” Seaman said. “Either the NCAA’s incremental benefits are so small or nobody cares and cities are reluctant to host, but until then, it’ll keep growing. It’s like you’re giving out candy at the end of the year, and it’s how much can you give out, and you’ll be tempted to keep handing it out to shut people up.”

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Michigan Athletics Turns to Facebook to Drive New Donations

The University of Michigan athletic department has found a great return on investment by reaching donors through paid Facebook advertising.

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The University of Michigan recently tapped into a fundraising reservoir using Facebook.

Last December, Brian Wagner was given a list of 20,000 emails of University of Michigan alumni who had the means to give, but hadn’t previously donated to the athletic department. As the department’s digital strategy and creative lead, Wagner decided to turn to a modern solution: social media.

Uploading the list into Facebook, Wagner found 15,000 of those emails on the website and from there the department created a “basic ad campaign” with former quarterback Denard Robinson.

“We were trying to grab some emotional strings there,” Wagner said.

SEE MORE: VERT Looks to Real-Time Data to Provide More Engaging Fan Experience

Spending $500 in the final week of December, the University of Michigan athletic department reached 9,029 of the 15,000 targeted users. Intrigued by the ad, 199 people clicked the link and eventually 40 donated a whopping $17,392. The 56-percent result rate and $2.51 cost per result were well worth the initial $500 investment, Wagner said.

The money went to the Michigan Athletics Scholarship Fund.

“Our development team was very pleased with the results,” Wagner said. “We do so much of our interactions with our season-ticket holders, and unless you’re a big donor, there’s not a lot of touch, and in the last week of the year we wanted to amp that up.”

The campaign was the only one that resulted in monetary donations, but Wagner said the athletic department regularly uses targeted Facebook campaigns, including letting the 25,000 season-ticket members know that there would be a “maize out” for a football game.

Early on in the football season, Wagner said they spent a few hundred dollars for a “thank-you” message to their season-ticket holders and will likely do another one later in the season, near Senior Day.

SEE MORE: Paws & Claws Club Provides Auburn Pets to Be Fans 

More were used to target the geographic area for ticket sales. The best performing campaigns are those emails they have from previous ticket purchasers, so they’re not just sounding off with a “megaphone.”

The success of the campaign also has resulted in Facebook receiving budgetary allocations in the annual budget. Wagner said the department will likely do another donor push in the near future.

“A lot still goes toward more traditional marketing, but we were able to add more dollars in this year for the paid social, where we hadn’t budgeted in previous years,” Wagner said. “We’d have to allocate from other areas, so it’s not an overnight shift, but we were able to siphon off more money directed to paid social and most of it is geared toward more revenue generation.”

The process sounds more sophisticated, Wagner said, but is fairly easy once the ad buyer dives in. He also said social media paid ad targeting isn’t something talked about much in his world, but it can be a useful tool.

SEE MORE: ‘Climb With Us’ Moniker Leads Marketing Efforts for Penn State 

A worry is all the controversy brought up surrounding Facebook and other social media business models, Wagner said. So far, however, the University of Michigan Athletic Department hasn’t had negative feedback.

“I’ve even thought about that myself,” he said. “But we’ve not received any emails or calls. The way I see it, and others might, I would much rather see an ad like this than one that doesn’t relate to me.”

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