Barstool Sports is getting into the college football bowl season game, announcing today that they'll become the title sponsor and broadcast partner of the Arizona Bowl. As part of the deal, the game, which pits a Mountain West team against a representative from the Mid-American Conference on Dec. 31, will depart from linear television and onto Barstool's distribution channels.
“We really believe that what we can do is take the best of traditional broadcast and take the best of traditional sponsorship and do both in a brand new way,” Barstool CEO Erika Nardini said in an interview with Sportico. “We think we’ll bring new fans. We know we will bring a level of energy, and we’ll cover the game in a way that is completely unique, and uniquely Barstool.”
Nardini told the outlet that distributing the event wasn't part of the initial plan but discussions revealed an opportunity for the site's channels. It also skips the step of partnering with another network (the game has aired on CBS Sports Network since 2015).
“There’s no reason we can’t play in the broadcast space, the sponsorship space and the comedy or personality and opinion space,” she added. “Obviously, we want to make sure we do it right and do it well, but this is a watershed moment for rethinking where and how games are broadcast.”
This news would have qualified as legitimately shocking a few years ago but given the company's inroads into the mainstream and recent explosion of Barstool Athlete, it almost feels inevitable. Bowl games are particularly thirsty for any type of security and that's coming in from interesting places lately. Hell, Jimmy Kimmel has one.
Each and every year we do a post quizzing readers on what's a real bowl game and what's made-up. Barstool, like them or not, has far more cache and name recognition than the replacement motor oil or regional bar and grille chain. And the Arizona Bowl is not exactly one steeped in deep tradition.
One could be forgiven for forgetting about the time Wyoming housed Georgia State. Or the time Nevada needed overtime to dispatch Arkansas State. On a podcast back in March, TBL floated the idea of The Ringer or Barstool operating their own alternative game broadcast and the possibilities it would open up. We just didn't expect it to become a reality so quickly.