Authenticity key for Home Depot-‘GameDay’ deal

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Thinking about inevitability and wondering which will come first: a scandal fueled by NIL money, or that of an entity involved in sportswashing?

“He always carried his own low temperature with him; he iced his office during heat waves; and I didn’t thaw it one degree at Christmas.” — Charles Dickens

The Home Depot will celebrate its 20th anniversary as title sponsor of ESPN’s “College GameDay” on September 3, when the three-hour Saturday morning show takes to the Ohio State campus for the 21st time. The flagship college football preview program made more than 400 shows before Grade 36 and aired on every football-prominence campus.

Former ESPN sales and marketing chief Ed Erhardt says the deal started with a casual chat with former Home Depot executive vice president John Costello at a Super Bowl party. of New Orleans. The football demos were attractive, but the appeal of “Game Day” for the nation’s largest home improvement retailer was more about the day of the week.

“You sell a lot of stuff on Saturdays, don’t you?” asked Erhardt. It wasn’t long before Costello asked if Home Depot could build the set. Discover had been the presenting sponsor of “Game Day” for the previous two years, but had never made a solid connection, and wanted more certainty about the origin of each week’s TV broadcast.

Costello saw enough potential that Home Depot’s initial contract was for three years. It didn’t take long for potential ESPN customers to ask “something like Home Depot got it,” a request that hasn’t stopped. On the eve of the 20th anniversary, Disney calls “College GameDay Built by The Home Depot” its most enduring sponsorship in sports or entertainment. My colleague Michael Smith also noted how Home Depot has stepped up its hospitality over the years of sponsoring the trade show and invited manufacturers and suppliers to “GameDay” venues.

The Home Depot’s sponsorship of “College GameDay” will celebrate its 20th anniversary this season

Costello pointed to the authenticity of the sponsorship that has enabled such longevity. “It made sense to every viewer and every Home Depot customer,” said Costello, who now sits on the board of a number of private and nonprofit companies, including Yellowstone Forever and CANVA. “It required considerable flexibility, because usually you don’t know where the next one will be until the Sunday or Monday before. But we had enough confidence in the concept to immediately sign a multi-year contract.”

Home Depot/Embedded Media Vice President Melanie-Babcock-Brown echoed Costello’s thoughts. “It reaches our top customers and it’s held true for 19 years,” she said. “It just gave us great connectivity and as the love for college football grew, so did the reach.”

Over the years, Home Depot has stuck with its grilling and tailgating offerings and offered on-site power tool samples. In addition to building the set each week, Home Depot – with considerable help from longtime agency Octagon helping from the start – has also teamed up with experiential elements on site. Then there was in-store support, including appearances and clinics, as well as social media and digital support.


The Home Depot is commemorating the anniversary during Week 0 with a “GameDay” season preview televised this Saturday from its Atlanta headquarters, which will include a giant orange helmet, approximately 3,000 employees (wearing either the orange of the company, or their favorite college fanwear) and an aerial over-appearance of CEO Edward Decker.

The show’s on-air talent has been so involved over the years in supporting the creation that the gang is now inseparable from Home Depot orange. Home Depot helmets are as frequently seen on site on Saturday mornings as college t-shirts. The Home Depot was also the first with the “Built By” designation, rolling out the unique Presenting Sponsor moniker on August 30, 2003, in Ohio State.

After so many shows over the years, many people interviewed for this story struggled to single out their favorite episode. Longtime ESPN marketer Rob Temple, now CEO of FishBait Solutions, cited Steve Spurrier’s first game as coach of the South Carolina Gamecocks in September 2005 as his “best ‘GameDay’ atmosphere of all. the temperature”. The show’s first trip to Oxford, Mississippi in October 2014 was also memorable for what was, at the time, a matchup between undefeated Ole Miss and Alabama. “One of the craziest shows ever, with Katy Perry throwing corn dogs and upsetting Alabama,” Temple recalled.

Longtime ESPN executive Rob Temple recalled Katy Perry’s appearance among his ‘GameDay’ highlights

At a time when agency relationships are more fragile than ever and the average seniority of a major brand’s chief marketing officer is 40 months, any marketing platform that lasts as many years as the Home Depot-ESPN deal can be seen as a small miracle, especially when one of the attendees often doesn’t know where next week’s show will take place until the previous Sunday or Monday.

“Operationally it’s a challenge, but we’ve always had Octagon to help us out and keep it fresh for all these years,” said Theresa Palmieri, vice president of sports advertising and brand solutions at Disney. . “He has proven to be an authentic voice for the university. football fans and it attracted fans and sponsors. It’s like we and Home Depot have always recognized that there’s something special about it, and we’ve been able to keep it fresh.

Says Costello, clearly a proud parent: “The #1 reason it’s lasted this long is simple: it worked. It’s become more sponsorship than media, like a league deal. He quickly differentiated the brand and drove traffic and revenue, while energizing employees and customers. And it continues to do so.”


  • Boxing promoter Top Rank’s sponsorship is up triple digits from a year ago, notes SBJ’s Adam Stern. High-ranking CRO Brian Kelly expects to complete a spirits deal by next year at the latest, with QSR and insurance as categories he also wants to fill. Current sponsors include Bud Light, Boost Mobile and Advance Auto Parts.
  • Anheuser-Busch’s status as the official beer of the NFL is the most recognized sponsorship in sports, according to the 15th Annual Sponsor Breakthrough Study conducted last year by MarketCast. SBJ Research Director David Broughton elaborated on the study results for this week’s magazine.
  • Southern Company is renewing its sponsorship of the Tour Championship, extending its deal with the PGA Tour Finals in Atlanta through the 2027 tournament, SBJ’s Eric Prisbell reports.
  • College football season is here (finally, with Week 0 at least). The SBJ Atlas team has a handy list of clothing suppliers for each Power 5 school below.
NIKE
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JORDANIAN BRAND
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NEW BALANCE
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UNDER PROTECTION
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our Lady Wisconsin (Big Ten)
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