When the Duke’s Mayo Bowl selected North Carolina as one of its participating teams earlier this month, one of the most important questions, at least publicly, was whether Sam Howell would play there or decide to withdraw.
Howell, the Tar Heels junior quarterback, entered the season as a Heisman Trophy contender. After a 6-6 regular season, no one would have been surprised if he had decided to skip the UNC bowl game and prepare for the NFL Draft, where he is still likely to be a selection. first round.
On December 7, two days after the UNC Mayo Bowl destination became official, Howell ended the suspense. In a post on Twitter, he shared a short video of Homer Simpson opening a jar of mayonnaise and emptying its contents into his mouth, the mayonnaise gently flowing out of the jar as if it were soft ice cream. Simpson swallows it all, then grimaces, as if his stomach hurts.
“Catch you all in Charlotte,” Howell wrote, adding a winking face emoji.
Howell’s tweet served two purposes, although one, perhaps, was unintentional. First, he ended speculation that he might step down, and his decision to play gave the Duke’s Mayo Bowl a marketable scenario: Howell started his college days with a win over South Carolina in Charlotte in 2019, and now his last college game (although he hasn’t announced it as such, it’s widely believed that he will) will come against the same team, in the same venue.
Second, Howell’s tweet contributed to the light and whimsical ethics of the game itself. Perhaps more than any other bowl game, Duke’s Mayo Bowl has become a self-aware character who doesn’t take himself very seriously. It’s a game sponsored by a condiment company, and a mayonnaise company, and it’s not unreasonable to assume that after Homer drank that jar of mayonnaise, he sat down and watched some football. himself (possibly after taking Pepto).
Duke’s Mayo Bowl is one of 42 bowl games (not counting the College Football Playoff Championship game) and it rarely offers the kind of appealing pairing to rise above the oversaturated bowl game market. Howell’s decision to play is a bonus to the game this year, as is the good fortune of the North Carolina-South Carolina game.
Still, when the Tar Heels and Gamecocks face off Thursday at Bank of America Stadium, sporting audiences – aside from fans of both teams – will be less interested in the 6-6 two-team result and more interested in the mayonnaise. . And the post-game mayonnaise bath for the winning head coach, in particular. A spokesperson for the game last week said staff members are working to find out the correct viscosity for the ceremonial mayo steeping.
Too thick and the mayonnaise will somehow fall on Shane Beamer from South Carolina or Mack Brown from North Carolina, and no one wants to see either coach sprayed with thick gelatin-like mayonnaise. Too runny, however, and the integrity of the mayonnaise will be compromised, and no one wants to see that either, especially in the Carolinas, where Duke’s is based and often the choice for serious mayonnaise connoisseurs.
“We’ve been working on it for months,” Miller Yoho said of the Mayo Bath.
Officially, Yoho, 34, is the director of communications and marketing for the Charlotte Sports Foundation, which hosts the Duke’s Mayo Bowl. Unofficially, Yoho is the guy who runs the game’s popular Twitter account, and so he’s also her voice – the Oz-like figure behind the curtain who gave a brand of Mayonnaise personality, and the college football games that he did. ‘she sponsors (there is also the kick-off at the start of the season).
In an interview last week, Yoho was quick to credit Duke’s, based in Greenville, SC, “for being freakish, for participating in the joke.”
“We broke a trophy,” he said, referring to a memorable post-game incident last year when the championship trophy broke before Wisconsin could leave it. “We didn’t do a mayonnaise bath, and they rolled around with it in a way a lot of sponsors wouldn’t.”
Charlotte’s 20th anniversary ball game will arrive next December, but this game, Thursday, will be the 20th of its kind – assuming it is spared the COVID-19 fate of other games that have been canceled. the last days. When Charlotte first hosted the Meineke Car Care Bowl in 2002, it melted into the background of the college football playoffs. It was mostly just another bowling game throughout its first decade, even after Belk took over the naming rights in 2011.
The game started to get a little more visible in the mid-2010s – around the time, not by chance, when Yoho started managing his Twitter account. Over time, he created a character that broke the social media noise, one that felt organic while still achieving the goal of promoting the brand and the games it sponsors.
Today, the Duke’s Mayo Bowl Twitter account has nearly 40,000 followers – the third among all bowl game accounts, and behind only the Peach Bowl and Rose Bowl. Recent tweets from the account include an image of a trip to Belk’s – “feels familiar,” Yoho wrote, garnering over 400 likes – and a retweet from someone lamenting the lack of recent smart tweets from @DukesMayoBowl.
“I was just thinking the same,” the game replied, in a self-deprecating manner.
Yoho also shared a screenshot, which originated on Reddit, of an ESPN graphic that included quotes from Beamer and Brown on the prospect of a post-game mayonnaise bath on Thursday. Beamer said: “I’m not a big mayonnaise guy. I mean, I’ll be happy to take one for the team on that one if that means we won a soccer game, but wow . ” And Brown, in a sentence that sounded like it came from a story in The Onion: “If we win the game, I would let someone hit me in the face with a frying pan… I don’t care. “
The Mayo Bowl, sharing the quotes, offered a simple reaction: “lol, what a world …”
In reality, the mayonnaise bath will be a ceremonial and scripted affair. That won’t happen immediately after the game, Yoho said, noting that Bank of America Stadium had new turf. Instead, it will be staged. To convince the coaches to accept the idea, Duke’s donated $ 10,000 to the winning coach for the charity of their choice.
Beamer and Brown have agreed, opening the door to what is sure to be one of the most viral social media moments of the college football playoffs.
“They’re going to have to sit there with all the cameras on them,” Yoho said of the winning coach, “and just take it.”
The mayo bath fits into the light nature of the game’s social media presence, which fits into the light nature of some of the in-game environments, which include various mayo-related promotional materials and, perhaps , coordinated marketing. When Clemson and Georgia played Charlotte at the start of the season, in a match also sponsored by Duke’s Mayo, several fans were caught on camera consuming unhealthy amounts of the condiment – Homer Simpson style.
“Duke’s Mayo takes what he does seriously, but they don’t take themselves seriously,” said Danny Morrison, director of the Charlotte Sports Foundation earlier this week. “So we had fun with it, and Coach Brown and Coach Beamer embraced the fun concept.”
Getting back to the mayo bath, Morrison added, “We said, ‘Well, every fan last year was clamoring for a Duke’s Mayo bath. “This year, assuming the game plays out, it will come to fruition. Yet even in the end, the Duke’s Mayo Bowl might have opportunities to get weird again,” Yoho said – though he can’t use it. – not be exactly this description.
Now that college athletes have the right to make sponsorship deals, the game’s MVP could be vying for a role in a commercial, as NFL players have long shouted, “I’m going to Disney World!” after winning the Super Bowl. Yoho didn’t give details on how it might work, but gave a hint: Imagine a player watching the College Football Playoff National Championship game, lying on the couch, a large TV in front of him. And in his hands: a big jar of mayonnaise.
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