Even before today’s kickoff of the first college football bowl in Yankee Stadium in nearly a half-century, sports apparel company New Era scored by snagging the title sponsorship.
New Era CEO Chris Koch said the ghost of George Steinbrenner helped the company land the lucrative sponsorship and naming rights for four years to the Pinstripe Bowl, one of just two new college bowl games allowed by the NCAA.
“It’s historic,” Koch, whose family has owned the $1 billion-revenue New Era for four generations, said in an interview with The Post.
He said the Yankees offered him the unique deal first due to a lifelong friendship between his late tennis-ace father David and the late Yankees owner.
“It was very satisfying to see how the relationship between good friends evolved,” said Koch, adding that the MVP bowl trophy will be named in honor of David Koch.
The deal was also an immediate win for New Era in terms of sales of caps, apparel and team memorabilia for the 51,000 fans set to pack the stadium.
The bowl features a showdown of conference leaders Kansas State of the Big 12, and Syracuse of the Big East Conference, both with 7-5 records.
While the company is said to have paid nearly $3 million for the naming rights to the New Era Pinstripe Bowl — telecast on ESPN — the company could recoup its cash in just hours.
The sellout crowd is expected to spend upwards of $60 per person on merchandise.
What’s more, the bowl game ushers in a new era for the apparel company to tap into the riches of college sports. Koch said it’s the company’s first major NCAA football event.
The Buffalo-based firm, which has no desire to go public, boasts operations on all continents and retail flagships in every major world capital. But Koch is proudest of its hometown Buffalo factory that makes 15 percent of its hundreds of millions of caps, shirts and jackets and employs more than 400 workers.
New Era can, however, play tough when needed. It beat out Reebok, Nike and Under Armour to become the official cap and sideline jacket maker for all NFL teams starting in 2012. The deal is expected to boost revenue by more than 20 percent. [email protected]