College football bowl games are known for having ridiculous names. We’ve seen games sponsored by pizza websites, Duck Commanders, BattleFrogs, military companies, video games, and potatoes. Those have all now been topped by a bowl pairing orange lawn mowers and make-believe pirates.
In August, the St. Petersburg Bowl announced a new name: the Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl. At the time, it seemed too good to be real. It’s real.
The name is distinct, badass, and bizarre. SB Nation spoke to parties involved with the name change to tell the story of how it came about.
First, let’s talk about lawn mowers. They will be everywhere, folks.
In the week leading up to the game, both FIU and Temple participated in various events in the Tampa/St. Pete area.
“We’re going to have some local celebrities in the area, some local sports celebrities, some local on-air personalities, and we’re going to have some lawn mower races out at Busch Gardens,” Brett Dulaney, the bowl’s executive director, said. “It’s almost like the movie The Water Boy, right?”
For another charity event called “Fill the Bowl,” players from both teams will fill backpacks of food for children to take home, and the mowers will transport all the food to trucks that will deliver the backpacks.
“At the stadium itself, there are going to be mowers everywhere, all over the place,” Dulaney said. “People handing out information, promotional teams, we’ll have mowers out on the field — we’ll have a mower bring out the stage for the trophy presentation. So we’ll have lawnmowers up on the concourses, out on the field, they’ll be in television view, we’ll have them on our shipwreck party deck, but we’ll also have them at all of our other events.”
How’d such a thing happen?
Bad Boy Mowers, the most badass name in the lawn mower industry (in my opinion), was looking to grow its brand. The company is based out of Batesville, Ark. Its mowers stand out thanks to bright orange paint.
Everything you need to know about the brand this company is trying to convey: “As a group of folks gathered around the parking lot driving our first mower, the name Bad Boy was struck when a driver jumped off and exclaimed, ‘that’s a Bad Boy.’”
The company wanted to expand its market.
“They had other opportunities at other bowl games, but they were in the Florida market, and they were trying to grow the Florida market,” Dulaney said. “Everybody knows that if you’re a lawn mower company, grass grows year-round in Florida. So one of their goals was to find a sporting event in the state of Florida that made sense for them, and with the Tampa Bay area being one of the top-leading media markets in the country, it was a good fit for them.”
Bad Boy Mowers is proud to announce a multi-year title sponsorship of the Gasparilla Bowl, held on December 21st, in St. Petersburg, Florida. The Bowl Game, which is owned by ESPN Events, a subsidiary of ESPN, is the beneficiary of one of the best resort locations in the nation and is able to showcase St. Petersburg, its award-winning beaches, beautiful Tampa Bay, and a tropical climate annually to thousands of college football fans in person and many more fans watching the game live on ESPN in the U.S. and beyond.
There have been some equipment-sponsored bowls in the past, such as the Poulan Weed-Eater Independence Bowl (1991-97) in Shreveport, the Royal Purple (Oil) Las Vegas Bowl, the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl, and the MicronPC.com Bowl (1999-2000) in Miami. While Dulaney said the uniqueness of the company’s name wasn’t exactly a factor in choosing Bad Boy Mowers as a sponsor, it certainly helps set the bowl apart.
“We know that a couple other bowl games have done equipment in the past,” Dulaney said. “And it just made a lot of sense. I think it was meeting with the group themselves and understanding that they are a marketing company, selling lawn mowers, and it was just a really good fit for both of us — they’re trying to push their brand, we’re trying to grow our bowl game, so it made a lot of sense.”
Please keep in mind this game is played on artificial turf, not actual grass that needs mowed.
A game named after lawn mowers is silly enough, but it also involves FAKE PIRATES.
Gasparilla means a lot to the people of Tampa and St. Pete. It’s the nickname for legendary pirate Jose Gaspar, who’s said to have plundered across the west coast of Florida during the 18th and early 19th centuries, even though he probably didn’t exist.
Numerous annual events in the area use the Gasparilla name, such as the Gasparilla Pirate Festival every January. As someone who’s attended the event before, let’s just say there are copious amounts of alcohol involved.
“I would say all bowl games go through growth phases, and we had been on the market for 10 years, and we had St. Pete in our name, and we wanted to be a little bit more regional,” Dulaney said. “We wanted to be inclusive of St. Pete and Pinellas County and Hillsborough County and Manatee County in our five-county area.”
The bowl is also teaming up with the Gasparilla Music Festival’s charity to donate used instruments to schools that don’t have the means to buy them.
How long will this amazing name last?
Bowl sponsors change quite frequently, and Bad Boy Mowers and the Gasparilla Bowl have a three-year deal in place. There’s no guarantee that the name will last forever, but both sides are excited and hopeful about the future the partnership holds.
“I think they’re in it for the long haul as well,” Dulaney said. “They understand the importance of sports marketing, they understand the opportunity to partner with ESPN on the television side and ESPN events to help on the game. We understand their brand, and what they’re trying to do and how they’re trying to grow their dealerships in the state of Florida — and thus far, it’s been a win-win situation for everybody.”
This game has had a lot of names over the years, all of them ridiculous.
In the St. Pete Bowl’s 10 years of existence, it’s had four different sponsors, most of them strange, including a phone company, a faux-Irish sports bar, and an invisible currency.
2008: The MagicJack St. Petersburg Bowl name stuck for just a year. MagicJack is a phone company that’s still in existence, actually!
2009-2013: In what sounded like an internet joke at the time, the Beef ‘O’ Brady's Bowl stuck for five years.
2014: The Bitcoin Bowl was arguably the weirdest name of them all. The name came from money that you can read articles about how to understand. There was even a BitPay mascot — and dog!
So this bowl has had an identity all along, it turns out.
This bowl has had some out-there names in the past, so why not stick to that as its brand?