USF Athletics, Gasparilla Bowl seek to enhance brands through new partnerships

The University of South Florida and Tampa General Hospital has long had a working relationship, including TGH being the primary teaching affiliate for the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine.

 The visibility of the relationship was greatly enhanced when USF Health’s 13-story tower in downtown Tampa opened in January. The building serves as an anchor, within the $3-billion Water Street Tampa development, and brought the university’s medical and pharmacy schools within a mile of TGH, located on Davis Island.

 The relationship between the university and hospital has included athletics, something that was elevated when it was announced, in October, that TGH will be the season-presenting sponsor for USF football, men’s basketball and women’s basketball through 2030. The agreement went into effect immediately.

“We have had Tampa General as a partner, but this deal I find to be quite progressive, and quite unique, to have such a long-term deal and to have it expand over three of our most visible sports,” says Michael Kelly, USF’s athletic director. “It will continue to co-brand USF athletics and TGH for a decade, which is really cool.”

 TGH has been a sponsor of USF athletics, at some level, and basically on a year-to-year basis, though never on the level of being a presenting sponsor.

 “It shows that they are making a long-term investment in the university, and our athletics program, and we will be able to continue to count on them not only for sponsorships but to help co-build our respective brands in this community,” said Kelly.  “It is a good community partnership and I am glad to have a major local company like Tampa General Hospital to be our partner in that category.”

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 Another multi-year agreement on the regional sports landscape is between the Gasparilla Bowl and its new title sponsor, Union Home Mortgage.

 The Ohio-based company was founded in 1970, is licensed in 45 states and has more than 150 branch locations. The firm’s Tampa branch is less than three miles south of the bowl game’s host venue, Raymond James Stadium.

“They want to create a long-term journey with us, they want to be partners and understand how we work so that we can progress together,” says Scott Glaser, executive director of the Union Home Mortgage Gasparilla Bowl. “Like any business, they want to expand their reach and so far, it has been an outstanding relationship.”

 The bowl is scheduled for Saturday, December 26 with a noon kickoff.

 Originally known as the magicJack Bowl, the game has also been sponsored by Beef O’Brady’s, Bitcoin and, for the past three years, Bad Boy Mowers. There was also a two-year stretch when it was simply known as the St. Petersburg Bowl.

One of 17 bowl games, owned and operated by ESPN Events, it was rebranded “Gasparilla” in 2017 to enhance regional appeal. To that extent, the game relocated from Tropicana Field to Raymond James Stadium in 2018, with many bowl-related events and activities remaining in Pinellas County.

 The bowl has had primary agreements with the American Athletic Conference (previously Big East) and Conference-USA, with the ACC serving as a secondary partner. The list of conference partners this year has expanded to include the Big 12, MAC, Mountain West, Pac-12 and SEC, plus independents Army and BYU.

“(The expanded conference partnerships) give us the opportunity to look at regionalizing games, what is going to be the best matchup, what is going to be best for fan travel to create the best atmosphere for the student-athletes, our sponsors and our community,” Glaser says.

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