New name for D.C. college bowl could prove to be game changer

By Liz Farmer, Examiner Staff Writer

Move over, EagleBank Northrop Grumman is now the main sponsor of the Districts rebranded Military Bowl, a move officials say will bring national recognition and boost attendance and spending for the college football game.

The financial details were not disclosed, but D.C. Bowl Committee Chairman Jeffrey Fried said the defense contractor has made a very large commitment, and it is tied to the USO, which supports U.S. troops abroad and is the games primary benefactor. The sponsorship agreement runs through 2013.

The nonprofit USO will receive proceeds from game revenue and Northrops sponsorship support. The company, which announced this year it was moving its corporate headquarters to Falls Church, is also providing services like transporting wounded soldiers to the December bowl.

City and football officials made the announcement Tuesday.

This makes Washington, D.C., a major player on the national scene, D.C. native and sportscaster James Brown said at the announcement.

Fried said he hoped the new name signified the start of a D.C. tradition and the start of a fuller RFK Stadium. Attendance for the inaugural bowl in 2008 was nearly 29,000; last year it fell to less than 24,000.

I want to walk into a stadium filled with 40,000 enthusiastic fans, Fried said. We have the team to do that now.

He added that boost could increase the games approximately $6 million in economic impact to $10 million.

But other factors arent controllable. Some say the weather in last years game 32 degrees at kickoff and a wind chill of 19 hurt attendance. In addition, the game is played just after Christmas, when the capital is typically deserted.

EagleBank, the title sponsor for the last two years, is still a principal sponsor. Fried said its financial commitment was slightly less than last years.

But some observers say more than just a name change is needed to get national attention. Susan Goodell, vice president of Warschawski marketing in Baltimore, said the teams chosen will affect attendance more than branding.

The matchup this year is scheduled to feature teams from the ACC and Conference USA. Navy and Wake Forest played in 2008; UCLA and Temple University played in 2009.

[Another] challenge is the Army-Navy game is already a such a big draw, Goodell said. I think in terms of a premier military game ... Army-Navy kind of already owns that space.

But she agreed that going from a regionally recognized sponsor to a national one gets more attention.

The lure and the name of calling it the Military Bowl thats definitely an upgrade, she said.

This years game is scheduled for Dec. 29.