(from SportsBusiness Journal, December 3, 2012) A $70 million sponsorship with Belk, which includes title sponsorship to the annual ACC-Big East matchup, allows for players from each of the competing schools to go on shopping spree at Belk. The NCAA allows each bowl game to award up to $550 worth of gifts to 125 participants per school. Most schools buy additional packages to distribute among students beyond the 125 limit. Participants are able to receive $400 from the school and up to $400 from the conference for postseason play.
Gift suites are private events where game participants, and often bowl VIPs, receive an order form and select a gift or a few gifts adding up to a value set by each specific bowl, not to exceed the NCAA limit.
Jon Cooperstein, who helped conceive the gift suite concept at the 2008 Orange Bowl, said his company, Performance Award Center, offers a substantially more diverse selection of products than in previous years. He and his staff have noticed that players are now just as likely to use the experience to shop for others as they are to sign up for things for themselves.
Many players are migrating to the women’s department to use their gift for the upcoming holidays. Will Webb, Executive Director of Charlotte Collegiate Football, the nonprofit committee that operates the Belk Bowl and the ACC Dr. Pepper Championship football game in Charlotte, relates an experience during last year’s player shopping trip.
“I saw one young man carrying a high-end Cuisinart coffee maker and pink slippers to the checkout counter,” Webb said, “I asked him jokingly if those were for him. He put his hand on my shoulder and said, ‘You have no idea how much this means to me. This is the first time in my life I’ve ever been able to buy my mom a Christmas present.’”
The contents of the packages would not be disclosed, but from Cooperstein’s story it can clearly be “an emotional experience for everyone.”