Could sponsorship of sporting events be a way to gain the interest of young people and perhaps increase their awareness of the tremendous opportunities available to them in the HVACR industry? For example, with college football bowl season approaching, I’m thinking the industry should look into stepping up and uniting to sponsor a bowl game.  

This idea came to me about a month ago when I had the opportunity to attend a rugby match. My wife’s nephew plays rugby for Kent State University, and their big match against Ohio University was played at Dix Stadium on the Kent State campus. Even though it was a very cold and windy day, and even though I didn’t always know exactly what was happening on the field, it turned out to be a lot of fun.

During the game I took a look around Dix Stadium, home of the Kent State Golden Flashes of the Mid-America Conference (MAC). I noticed a banner on the scoreboard that paid tribute to the football team’s accomplishments over the years. It included this gem: “1954 Refrigerator Bowl.”

I looked it up and found this on Wikipedia: “The Refrigerator Bowl was a college football bowl game played annually from 1948 until 1956 in Evansville, Indiana. The game was named for the local refrigerator production. With 3,800 units a day being manufactured, Evansville at the time was known as ‘The Refrigerator Capital of the United States.’” A little further research revealed that the Golden Flashes lost the 1954 game, 19-7, to the Delaware Fightin’ Blue Hens. (I am not making this up.)

It is often said that we need to increase awareness of our industry if we’re going to attract the much-needed next generation of talented individuals. And, sure, many HVACR companies already advertise during sporting events. But sponsoring an entire event is a whole different ballgame compared to running a 30-second ad. As the sponsor, your name is out there at every mention of the game, and you can control the message.

Everyone is familiar with the major bowls, such as the Rose Bowl, the Orange Bowl, the Sugar Bowl, and the Cotton Bowl. Those have become ingrained in our culture. And they all started with the idea of getting a marketing message across: The Rose Bowl was first played in 1902 as part of a festival to promote Pasadena’s beautiful weather, the Orange Bowl began in 1926 to promote Miami in the same way, the Sugar Bowl began in 1935 to promote granulated sugar, and in 1937 the Cotton Bowl was born to celebrate the cotton industry.   

Today there are dozens of bowl games, with a hugely diverse group of sponsors. In 2015 the bowl games will include the AutoNation Cure Bowl, the Popeyes Bahamas Bowl, the Hyundai Sun Bowl, the Taxslayer Bowl, the Russell Athletic Bowl, and even the very tasty Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. Sure, everybody’s got something to sell, and marketing is everywhere, but for the HVACR industry’s bowl, what we’d be selling is awareness and opportunities. Young people would watch and gain a new awareness of our industry — and would probably think it was pretty cool. In fact, the entire theme could be “Refrigeration is Cool.” And of course in addition to the overall industry message, there would be plenty of opportunities for individual companies to advertise and market their own products before, during, and after the event.  

And how about this: For the halftime show, the marching band could simulate the refrigeration cycle — with band members marching through a person-sized condenser and a person-sized evaporator, emerging with a different colored uniform to illustrate the phase change that refrigerant goes through in a system!

O.K., maybe that halftime show idea is a little crazy (or maybe it’s the most brilliant idea I’ve ever had), but the bottom line is a bowl game sponsored by and for the industry would be a tremendous marketing and promotional opportunity — not to mention a lot of fun. We did it once before, with the Refrigerator Bowl between 1948 and 1956. We can do it again. In fact, given the projected shortage of skilled technicians our industry faces, we should be looking for any new and innovative ways to let today’s kids know that our industry is interesting, fun, and, yes, cool.

Did I mention that the end zone pylons could be shaped like little refrigerant cylinders? I’m telling you, this idea just gets better and better . . .