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Sign of the times: The city’s public schools championship game is no longer just the Turkey Bowl. It’s the 42nd Annual Safeway Turkey Bowl.
This year’s game, featuring Coolidge and Dunbar, will be the first Bowl held since Mayor Vincent Gray sold the naming rights of the biggest event on D.C.’s scholastic sports calendar.
According to Gray’s office, Safeway paid $100,000 in cash and will contribute $50,000 worth of what are called “in-kind” donations, meaning barter.
Brand new DCPS athletic director Stephanie Evans says that to satisfy the “in-kind” requirement, Safeway will provide things like in-store advertising space to DCPS to promote the title game.
For old school types, these name-selling ventures that have taken control of big-game sports are unseemly, particularly when students are being used to promote products and causes that they have no control over what brand or cause they’re being exploited for. (The Weedeater Bowl, Humanitarian Bowl, etc.)
But DCPS sports are in such trouble, the more folks in the community paying attention, the better. And Safeway frequently has sirloin steak sales for $4.99 or less a pound if you buy side-of-beef quantities, which I take advantage of.
And Gray follows local high school sports more closely than any mayor the city’s ever had.
So if the DCPS/Safeway relationship goes swimmingly, look for a spate of naming-rights sales with other school events.
I’m not so sure of the real-world value of advertising space in grocery store aisles. But this “in-kind” concept has all kinds of possibilities beyond the high school realm.
It’d be cool, for example, if organizers of next month’s Military Bowl Presented by Northrop Grumman at RFK Stadium accepted the sponsors’ cluster bombs as payment.