Konica Minolta Gator Bowl's Response to Tomahawk Nation's Story About Player Gifts

TOMAHAWK NATION EXCLUSIVE:  This story contains information that has not yet been released, published, or reported by any main stream media outlet, newspaper, blog, or any other site. TN is the first to publish this information.

Recently I published a story titled Are The 2010 Konica Minolta Gator Bowl Sponsors Stingy and Tight Wads? where I questioned why the Konica Minolta Gator Bowl's announced and published list of gifts for players were what I consider to be inferior and substandard, especially when compared to what other "less prominent" bowls were offering the participants of their respective bowls.  At the time of this story being published, 563 (67%) out of the 839 TN members who voted, felt the 2 gifts were inferior, shabby, and cheap, and only 40 voters (4%) felt they were satisfactory. (The poll has now been closed and removed)

Apparently this story received some attention outside of the Tomahawk Nation membership base and from those others who read TN on a regular basis.

Shortly after publishing, I was contacted by the sports editor of a Jacksonville sports media outlet requesting permission to share the story on their site, which I granted.

The next day I was contacted by e-mail, by Erik Dellenback, who is the Director of Marketing

for the Gator Bowl Association

In Mr. Dellenback's email to me, he stated that he respects and that I am entitled to my opinion on the gifts, but that he would like me to consider the following points:

-That the Title Sponsor, Konica Minolta, has no influence or relationship with the selection of Bowl gifts.

-That the Title Sponsor is one of the primary revenue sources that helps keep Bowls making millions of dollars in payouts to the participating Universities.

-That "the City of Jacksonville, the Gator Bowl and Konica Minolta are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to thank Bobby and his fans appropriately for a legendary career,

including,

-providing game tickets and hosting events for past players,

-creating a special in-game ceremony,

-honoring Coach Bowden as the Grand Marshall of the Parade,

-creating a once in a lifetime final walk into the stadium for FSU and WVU fans to thank Coach Bowden,

-and providing many other thank you mementos for Coach Bowden and his family."

-Also, that the players will be getting a ring to commemorate Bobby Bowden's last game.

Mr. Dellenback concluded his email by reiterating once again how I am entitled to my opinion, and how over the last two weeks there have been meetings between the Gator Bowl Association, Konica Minolta and the City of Jacksonville, on how they can spend their time and money to make this a once in a lifetime event for FSU fans and players as well as Coach Bowden.

While I appreciated Mr. Dellenback's response and concern about our story, everything he stated, with the exception of the ring and the tickets/events for past players, are usual and customary things that are considered normal operating procedures for Title Sponsors, cities, and organizing committees and associations for major bowl games.  Furthermore, his email did not address the point of my story and my desire to learn why this years gifts were inferior to the gifts presented to Clemson and Nebraska players last year, and more importantly, inferior and substandard to the gifts being presented by "less prestigious bowls" to their participants this year.

Please hit the jump to continue reading my response and subsequent correspondence between Mr. Dellenback and myself.

Here is my reply to his e-mail.

Mr. Dellenback,
 
Thank you for your e-mail.
 
As the Director of Marketing for the Gator Bowl, I can appreciate your concern regarding my story regarding what I consider to be inferior gifts for the FSU and WVU players who will be participating in your bowl game, as compared to what is being given to players at what I will refer to as "less prominent" bowl games.
 
In writing my story, I used data that was obtained from published sources, based on information apparently supplied to those outlets by someone associated with your Gator Bowl Association.
 
If you will further help me understand where I went wrong, I will be more than happy to write a follow-up story with more accurate information.
 
Here are some of the issues I am concerned with, that I would like for you to address, if at all possible, to help me explain to our readers why I was incorrect in my conclusions.
 
1.    If the Title Sponsor Konica Minolta, has no influence or relationship with the selection of Bowl gifts, who or what group of people, specifically in the case of the Gator Bowl, made the decision as to what gifts are given to the players?
 
2.  Regarding the Rings....Are you able to share any other information other than that the ring will commemorate Bobby Bowden's final game, such as manufacturer or approximate value?  Are you able to share a sample layout or photograph of the ring that I am able to publish?
 
3.  Was the GBA planning to keep the rings a secret in order to surprise the players?  Is this the reason it was not made public at the same time the other gifts were originally announced?
 
4.  Will the West Virginia players also be getting a ring that will commemorate Bobby Bowden's final game, or will their rings be different?
 
5.  While I can appreciate the points you make in your e-mail, specifically in item #2, with all due respect, the payout versus publicity the Title Sponsor receives is a corporate decision that sponsor makes willingly, and it is the same decision all Title Sponsors make for each and every bowl game.   The Gator Bowl is not any different than any of the other bowls in this respect.  I am sure Konica Minolta performed extensive cost analysis before deciding to sponsor, and I am confident that they made a sound business decision when they agreed to be the Title Sponsor of the Gator Bowl.
 
As a matter of fact, during last years Gator Bowl, "Konica Minolta will launch a new television ad campaign, which focuses on delivering a reliable, trustworthy solution that exceeds customers’ copier product and service needs. The two-spot campaign will debut during the Gator Bowl Classic, and will appear during additional sports programming throughout 2009.  Featuring a new slogan, Count on Konica Minolta, viewers will come to know personalities Bev and Milt, who quickly learn the value of Konica Minolta’s award-winning line of MFPs and printers and come to rely on the certainty and trustworthiness that comes from a trusted partnership with Konica Minolta." 

Therefore, your point about the Title Sponsor being one of the primary revenue sources that helps keep Bowls making millions of dollars in payouts to the participating Universities, in my opinion, benefits Konica Minolta equally and is really a non-issue as far as my story is concerned.

6.  While I can appreciate the points you make in your e-mail, specifically in item #4, I will concede that the cost of the complimentary tickets and special events for past players may be an additional incurred cost to the GBA that may or may not have been budgeted for.  However, your other points in #4 regarding the "special" events are a normal bowl game expense which I consider not relevant to the point of my story.

7.  If my facts are correct, the 2009 Gator Bowl attendance was approximately 65,000.  From what I understand, the 2010 Gator Bowl is expected to break the previous attendance record.
 
"We're planning on breaking the record," Gator Bowl general chairman Dan Murphy said of the benchmark set two years ago, when 85,412 fans watched Bowden's Seminoles beat Alabama 21-14.

"I knew this would be a hit," Gator Bowl Association president Rick Catlett said. "But this has exceeded our wildest expectations."

Considering these facts, please help me explain to our readers why there is such a difference between the 2009 gift package of a Bulova watch, Jostens ring, Oakley Split Thump MP3 sunglasses, fitted cap, two-piece Mercury Luggage rolling duffel and sling bag, and the 2010 gift package of the Commemorative Ring honoring Bobby Bowden that you mentioned in your item #3, along with a Fossil watch, and Oakley Antix sunglasses.  Would you agree that there seems to be a discrepancy in level of the gift packages between last years and this years?  I am not familiar with the Jostens ring given to the Clemson and Nebraska players last year.  Will that be a similar ring to the Commemorative Bobby Bowden Ring you mentioned the players will be given this year?

Mr. Dellenback, the point of my story was that it appears the gifts the players of both teams will be receiving this year are not on par with the gifts given last year by your Gator Bowl, and at the same time, inferior to the gifts being given to players at less prestigious bowls.

As I previously stated, I will write a follow up story explaining the Gator Bowl's point of view regarding what I view as a discrepancy in terms of gifts with other bowls.  The information you provided regarding the Commemorative Ring is a good starting point.  If you will please answer my questions and concerns outlined above, I will write a story explaining how my perceived ideas of inferior gifts was incorrect and I will be more than happy to explain why I was wrong.

Please feel free to reply to this email address, or to the one you originally sent me.

Thank you for your time and I look forward to hearing back from you with more facts so I can get a new story published ASAP.

The next day Mr. Dellenback responded to my e-mail by starting out with the following:

I truly appreciate you allowing me the opportunity to further explain this process. I can also tell by your below e-mail that you certainly do extensive research before publishing and I appreciate that very much.

Mr. Dellenback responded to my questions as follows:

In regards to you points, I would like to provide the following response:

1.  Bowl gifts are selected by Bowl Staff with input from our Volunteer leadership. The process of Bowl gift selection begins each year when we have a critique meeting with the two teams that played in the last game. We sit down with several player and administrators and they give us feedback on what they got and what they would rather have gotten. We take that information and make selections based on that.

2.  I am referring to the NCAA dollar amount and the manufacturer is Jostens. Each ring will be customized by the two schools to represent their season and trip to the Konica Minolta Gator Bowl, so we have not yet finalized artwork.

3.  The ring is not a surprise it was just not published for some reason.

4.  There ring will be customized by WVU.

5.  I actually agree with you on this point, I was only referencing that I wished the company had not been negatively affiliated with the Bowl gifts.

6.  The events I was referencing will all be conducted and paid for above and beyond the already scheduled event packed Bowl week.

OK, so now let's get back to the point of my original story, the gifts for the FSU and WVU players.

The point of my original story was simply to wonder out loud why the PUBLISHED Gator Bowl gifts were inferior to the gifts presented to last years Gator Bowl participants and, inferior to what the lesser bowls are giving out this year.

I am not trying to beat a dead horse here by any means. If I were a player, I would consider it an honor and privilege to play in a bowl game, and the gifts would just be a little icing on the bowl cake. But the fact of the matter is that the gifts to the players are a customary and expected tradition, and with a record breaking attendance expected, I saw no reason why our players should get short changed and felt they should at the minimum, get gifts comparable to similarly ranked bowls.  Whether you like the gift idea or not, gifts are a fact of life in the bowl world.

The information I obtained during my research of last years bowl gifts came from two published sources and both sources listed the gifts given to the Gator Bowl players as a Bulova watch, Jostens ring, Oakley Split Thump MP3 sunglasses, fitted cap, Two-piece Mercury Luggage rolling duffel and sling bag.

http://www.sportsbusinessjournal.com/article/60900

and

http://awfulannouncing.blogspot.com/2008/12/your-2008-2009-college-football-bowl.html

In Mr. Dellenback's e-mail response, he agrees that the gifts given last year included a Bulova Watch, Oakley Thumps, a fitted hat, and a luggage set, however he did not list the Jostens Ring.  The Jostens Ring allegedly given last year is from the same manufacturer as this years Bobby Bowden/Gator Bowl commemorative ring. 

I chose to believe that what Mr. Dellenback is saying is truthful, and that he is not purposely omitting that a comparable ring was given last year, just to bring this years gifts more in line with last years gifts.

Mr. Dellenback also informed me that they have also added a Luggage Trunk as a gift to the players.

Therefore, the players will be receiving the aforementioned Fossil Watch and Oakley sunglasses, the previously unannounced Luggage Trunk, and the large gift on which the majority of the dollars will be spent,  a Jostens Ring that will be customized by FSU and will commemorate Bobby Bowden’s final game and the Gator Bowl.

To recap, when I first published the story, the only gifts that were announced and published were the watch and sunglasses which lead me to ask

Are The 2010 Konica Minolta Gator Bowl Sponsors Stingy and Tight Wads?

Knowing what I now know, that the FSU players will be receiving a previously unannounced specially designed Gator Bowl/Bobby Bowden Commemorative Ring (the WVU players will be also receiving a ring customized by their school), the Fossil Watch, the Oakley Sunglasses, the also previously unannounced Luggage Trunk, that the GBA will be giving tickets and hosting events for former players, and based on all this new information that was not published and incorrectly reported by many other media outlets, my answer to that question today, would have to be

NO!

Finally, as I publish this story, I am sending Mr. Dellenback the following e-mail to make him aware that I have kept my word, and suggest the Gator Bowl consider issuing a press release to make other MSM outlets aware of the actual gifts and to stop the spread of misinformation and negative publicity about their gift selections.

Hello Erik,
 
Thank you for taking the time to reply to my questions.
 
I have written a new story regarding our exchanges on our site Tomahawk Nation.com, which I think better explains the Gator Bowl Association's position, the gifts, and the GBA's relation with Konica Minolta, in a more flattering and positive light.
 
Here is the link. http://www.tomahawknation.com/2009/12/18/1205531/konica-minolta-gator-bowls

I believe I was diligent in the research I performed when attempting to find out what gifts were being given to players by the different bowls.  During this process, I came across several stories on different sites that portrayed the Gator Bowl gifts in a less than desirable fashion.  There will undoubtedly be more stories being written by newspapers, magazines, blogs, and possibly even reported on television, in the next two weeks about what participating players can expect to receive when arriving at their respective bowl games.  Last year for example, many stories were written, not just by blogs, but by newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel, and even by ESPN.com.
 
With all due respect, I would like to offer a suggestion.  I think the Gator Bowl Association should consider issuing a press release about the actual gifts that the FSU and WVU players will be given, to stop any misinformation about the quality of the Gator Bowl gifts, and to make sure the correct information is disseminated to the MSM outlets, so that they can have accurate information on any future stories being written or reported.
 
If by chance you do issue any type of release, I would appreciate being included on the distribution list for that and any other future release's pertaining to the upcoming game.
 
Finally, I am sure I will be enjoying my latest FSU bowl game experience in the Gator Bowl, and the subsequent weekend I will be spending in Jacksonville Beach.
 
Thank you again for your time and response.

While this information is not as important as a new coaching hire, some of you may find these turn of events at least somewhat interesting during a slow Nole news period. 

>---------------:----:-----------------> GO NOLES!

 (In cap's, bold, and highlighted for your reading pleasure)

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