San Diego County CU Says It Scored Touchdown With Bowl

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Navy's Reggie Campbell tied a college football bowl record with five touchdowns to lead the Midshipmen to a 51-30 win over the Colorado State Rams in the inaugural Poinsettia Bowl here-but the play on the field was not the story.

That's because The Poinsettia Bowl's full name is the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl, the first time a credit union has been a title sponsor of a major college bowl game. SDCCU's management said they are thrilled with the name recognition generated from the title sponsorship.

Rod Calvao, San Diego County CU's president and CEO, said the bowl game brought "tremendous exposure" to the credit union. In addition to numerous mentions of the CU's name by the stadium public address announcer, it was visible on the scoreboard, on banners throughout the stadium, and on the logo at midfield. Calvao garnered some personal attention when he was interviewed midway through the first quarter on ESPN2's national telecast.

"They asked me what I thought of the game, and I told them it was for a great cause-Make-A-Wish," Calvao said while the second quarter played behind him. "But credit unions do a lot of good stuff in their communities, not just us."

SDCCU is a regular sponsor of the Make-A-Wish Foundation, a non-profit organization that grants wishes to children who have life-threatening medical conditions, and made the group a beneficiary of the bowl game. The credit union pledged $1 for each ticket sold. Although the official turnstile count was 36,842, more than 43,800 tickets had been distributed as of the night before the contest. Based on sales, plus anticipated walk-up of about 2,000, SDCCU wrote a check to Make-A-Wish in the amount of $46,000.

"When we signed up to be title sponsor of the bowl, we knew we were partnering with the Holiday Bowl [a local institution whose 28th annual game was contested one week after the Poinsettia Bowl]. The same people were willing to work with us, and they are a winning team," said Calvao. "Add the Make-A-Wish Foundation, and we think of ourselves as winners, so there was synergy."

Activities Yield Coverage

In the days leading up to the game, the two teams participated in several bowl week activities at local tourist spots, including visits to Sea World and the San Diego Zoo, as well as a visit to a local children's hospital. Calvao said an SDCCU representative attended each event, and he personally greeted the two teams. He said the credit union had banners with its name displayed when the teams arrived from Annapolis, Md., and Fort Collins, Colo.

"It was great to see these kids excited to visit San Diego-many for the first time. They liked our climate, because they came from places a lot colder," he said. "Every day, there were mentions in the local press. And they didn't say 'Poinsettia Bowl,' they said 'San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl.'"

Another highlight of the week for Calvao was a luncheon the day before the game on the U.S.S. Midway-a retired aircraft carrier that serves as a floating museum near downtown. Several children who were getting their wishes granted by Make-A-Wish were in attendance.

"The most amazing thing was the Wish Kids. The coaches presented some of them with jerseys. One kid spoke of wanting to go do Army training, and there wasn't a dry eye in the house."

The 2006 San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl will have a new president, and Calvao said he began working with the new person on planning the next game one day after the Holiday Bowl.

"This was a big step," he declared. "Now, we have to figure out how to top it because we set the bar pretty high. We had a lot of coverage, a good crowd and an exciting game. But, you always can find things to fine tune when you do something for the first time."

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