There are easier ways to secure tickets on the 50-yard line for the Holiday Bowl, but perhaps none as imaginative as becoming the game’s title sponsor.
Holiday Bowl officials were prepared to play this year’s game, which matches Wisconsin and USC, without a sponsor’s name above the marquee.
That won’t be necessary now that National Funding, a local financial technology company, has signed a one-year deal to be the game’s title sponsor. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.
“I can’t tell you how appreciative we are,” said Mark Neville, executive director of the San Diego Bowl Game Association. ““For somebody who really is in this for the spirit of the community and the bowl games is tremendous.
“We continue to be in discussions for a long-term partner. We’re looking for that right partner, and it hasn’t come along just yet. This helps us in a huge way.”
National Funding CEO Dave Gilbert read in the Union-Tribune last month that the Holiday Bowl was without a sponsor. Then USC, Gilbert’s alma mater, was invited to play the Badgers in the Dec. 30 game at Qualcomm Stadium and Gilbert picked up the phone.
“I’ve been following these bowl games for years,” said Gilbert, who moved to San Diego in 2001, three years after graduating from USC. “When I found out that USC was playing in it and there was an opportunity to participate in the bowl game, I jumped all over it.”
Holiday Bowl officials had built up reserves in recent years in case they faced a year without a title sponsor to help offset costs for the game. National Funding’s emergence will make it so they don’t have to dig so deep into those reserves.
“For 2015, he is our community hero this year for stepping up at the 11th hour,” Neville said.
Gilbert was on vacation last year, and he missed the Trojans’ 45-42 Holiday Bowl win over Nebraska.
“I’m a big fan of sports and a huge fan of the community,” Gilbert said. “I love what these bowl games do for these communities and to be part of that is an honor. San Diego is like a small but big city. We want to play our part in the community and be a part of that.
“You don’t get these kind of opportunities too often because usually big corporations are stepping in and already have this position.”
This is similar to the situation the PGA Tour found itself in five years ago when it was without a title sponsor for its annual tournament at Torrey Pines.
In that case, Farmers Insurance stepped up within weeks of the golf tournament. So successful was the partnership that Farmers signed on as the tournament’s long-term title sponsor.
There’s nothing to suggest National Funding, which has been in business for 17 years, will do likewise with the Holiday Bowl. But Gilbert will give it some consideration after this year’s game.
“This kind of came out of nowhere,” Gilbert said. “This is our first sponsorship, so I want to gauge what this does both in the community and also for our company and our customers and go from there.”
Originally printed in The Union Tribune by