In 1996, Chick-fil-A became the first title sponsor of a much-maligned, financially struggling college football game that had begun in Atlanta 28 years prior.
Today, with the news of S. Truett Cathy’s passing, it’s appropriate to recognize what is now the nation’s longest-tenured corporate sponsorship of any college bowl game.
True, it wasn’t until the Peach Bowl moved into the Georgia Dome that its fortunes began to change. The game had recently been staking its reputation on being the nation’s most closely competed college bowl, with contests decided by less than a touchdown. And the Dome provided a more fan-friendly venue than the old Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium — namely, a refuge from the city’s notoriously miserable weather that seemed to roll in just in time for an outdoor kickoff.
But what the game needed next more than anything else was a corporate sponsor. The Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce had taken the event as far as it could go, and Chick-fil-A stepped to the plate.
Today, the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl is part of the new playoff structure that begins this year. Over the next 12 years, it will host a national semifinal game four times, joining the Cotton, Fiesta, Orange, Sugar and Rose Bowls.
First under Cathy’s leadership and now his sons — along with a very talented high-level corporate team of executives – Chick-fil-A also sponsors an unofficial kickoff to the college football season, the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game, and has a permanent presence at the College Football Hall of Fame.
Not bad for a man who got his start by making fried chicken sandwiches for Ford workers. Truett, it’s been Atlanta’s pleasure.