May 14, 2014

Northwestern Mutual to sponsor Rose Bowl

By Paul Myerberg, USA TODAY Sports

NEW YORK — Milwaukee-based financial services organization Northwestern Mutual will serve as the presenting sponsor of the Rose Bowl beginning in 2015, joining its name with college football's oldest postseason event as the Football Bowl Subdivision transitions its championship to a four-team playoff format.

The agreement will last through the 2020 season, half the span of the College Football Playoff's 12-year contractual agreement with ESPN. Northwestern Mutual is the second company to sign a sponsorship agreement with the six "contract" and "host" bowls that will make up the rotating semifinal games, joining Peach Bowl sponsor Chick-fil-A.

As with Vizio, the Rose Bowl's sponsor during the final years of the Bowl Championship Series era, Northwestern Mutual will be a presenting sponsor, not a title sponsor – meaning the game will be referred to as "the Rose Bowl presented by Northwestern Mutual."

The Rose Bowl will serve as one of the two national semifinals during Northwestern Mutual's six-year agreement, in 2015 and 2018. The company will continue to serve as the presenting sponsor during each semifinal; likewise with the to-be-determined sponsors of the remaining four rotating playoff bowls, a process ESPN aims to complete before the start of the regular season.

"This is groundbreaking stuff," said Northwestern Mutual chairman and CEO John Schlifske. "I grew up with the first Super Bowl and nobody knew what it was going to become – it wasn't even called the Super Bowl.

"I think you look at what this is, it's going to become a spectacle. I think it's going to be a much bigger thing that just who wins the national championship. I think it's going to turn into more than just a sporting event. It's going to be a spectacle in America."

The College Football Playoff semifinals – leading into a title game held at a host stadium, beginning at AT&T Stadium in North Texas in 2015 – will be composed of a six-game rotation: Rose Bowl, Sugar Bowl, Orange Bowl, Cotton Bowl, Peach Bowl and Fiesta Bowl. The Orange Bowl and Cotton Bowl will host the semifinals in January 2016 and the Peach Bowl and Fiesta Bowl in 2017.

"Being part of the College Football Playoff, I mean, we need to be part of it," Rose Bowl executive director Bill Flinn said. "When you can look back on 100 years of history, the chances are you can look forward to a pretty good future. It's about the aura of that place. The hills behind the stadium, the time of day, the air. It's New Year's Day."

In addition to sponsoring the Rose Bowl, Northwestern Mutual will also advertise on ESPN's digital properties, like ESPN.com and Watch ESPN, as well as throughout the network's year-round televised college football coverage.

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