The Fiesta Bowl has spent nearly $125,000 to provide new PlayStation 5 consoles to athletes on the Oregon and Iowa State football teams, a bowl gift that one player said was more exciting than his conference championship ring.
The Fiesta Bowl, which is sponsored by PlayStation, paid nearly full price for the consoles, which sell at retail for $499. It is offering 125 of them to each team, a strict limit that cannot be exceeded, according to a bowl spokesman.
The bowl has purchased PlayStation consoles as gifts for the past few years, but the timing of Sony’s recent release made this year’s gift both highly valuable and extremely coveted. The PS5 immediately sold out after it was released in November, as did subsequent restockings, with some waiting in line for 36 hours to buy a console. At one point PS5s were reselling in online markets for thousands of dollars; as of Tuesday afternoon listings were generally in the $800 to $1,000 range.
The athletes themselves were well aware of the gift before their teams were officially chosen to play in the game. When Oregon beat USC to win the Pac-12 title, a win that basically guaranteed it would play in the Fiesta Bowl, Ducks wide receiver Mycah Pittman immediately considered the ramifications.
“As soon as we won the Pac-12 championship, I instantly thought of PS5, and then ring,” said Pittman, an avid gamer who has Twitch and YouTube channels. “And then I was like, ‘Okay, I gotta think ring, then PS5.’ It was just really cool because PS5s are impossible to find right now, and it’s going to be a great Christmas gift.”
Gift packages are a bowl game’s way of rewarding athletes for finishing a successful season, and in many cases, spending the holidays on the road. The items are often products sold by the game’s corporate partners, ranging from sunglasses and wireless speakers, to gift certificates and shopping sprees. Recently, many bowl games have shifted to what’s called a “gift suite,” where each athlete chooses from a variety of options.
There are restrictions. The NCAA says no player’s gifts can exceed $550 in value. They can’t receive cash, and they’re not allowed to resell the items, a restriction that’s especially important for the Fiesta Bowl participants, given the inflated resale market for the new PS5.
The PlayStation isn’t the only item in the Fiesta Bowl gift package. Players on each team will also receive a Lululemon backpack. The bowl said that the total paid for both items, given volume purchasing, was within the $550 limit.
The Fiesta Bowl has paid full price for its consoles in the past. While it may surprise many to hear that an event with PlayStation as its title sponsor doesn’t receive a major discount for the gifts, the right to buy 250 consoles is itself a nice concession for the bowl.
“It’s been a great tradition for us and the student-athletes that we have been able to provide PlayStation consoles for each of the years that PlayStation has been our title partner,” a Fiesta Bowl spokesman said in an email. “It has been a hit with the players, who see this as an added bonus for playing in the Fiesta Bowl, in addition to qualifying for a New Year’s Six bowl game.”
The bowl’s title partnership with PlayStation was actually negotiated by ESPN. The Disney unit’s 12-year, $7.3 billion partnership with the College Football Playoff covers a lot more than just live TV rights—ESPN also has a host of commercial rights, including title sponsorship to many of the sport’s biggest postseason events. In addition to the ESPN-brokered title partnership, the bowl also has a separate local partnership with PlayStation that it negotiated on its own.
The Fiesta Bowl is operated annually by the Arizona Sports Foundation. The nonprofit claimed $19.4 million in revenue and spent $15.3 million in fiscal 2019, a period that included last season’s game. Those numbers will both likely drop this year as there will be no tickets sold, and only a couple thousand friends and family members in attendance.
More from Sportico.com