Local firm to sponsor Gator Bowl game

Taxslayer to support New Year's Day contest

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Gator Bowl’s new title sponsor used to be called Rhodes-Murphy Income Tax Services.

Not exactly a name to quicken the pulse, unless you’re looking for hidden deductions.

But since 1999, the company based in Augusta, Ga., has been called TaxSlayer.com. It has not only started to crowd online tax services such as TurboTax but is doing well enough to dive heavily into sports marketing. TaxSlayer is one of the sponsors for NASCAR’s marquee driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and has now forged an extensive marketing and advertising deal with ESPN that includes title sponsorship of Jacksonville’s New Year’s Day bowl game for the next three years.

Welcome to the TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl, which will match an SEC and Big Ten team Jan. 2 at Everbank Field.

“We love the name,” Gator Bowl president Rick Catlett said Thursday after making the announcement at the Gator Bowl Association’s Kickoff Meeting at Latitude 30.

“One thing you can say is that it attracts attention.”

“We’re in a great place now,” said Gator Bowl chairman Greg Smith. “We’ve got our conference affiliations, TV network and title sponsorship situations in place and that will give us the stability we need to keep growing and provide a great experience for the two teams and our fans.”

Catlett did not disclose financial terms but it will enable the Gator Bowl to maintain at least the $5.4 million payout that was divided between Mississippi State and Michigan last year.

TaxSlayer.com is the Gator Bowl’s fourth title sponsor in the past six years.

All college bowl games have come to rely on title sponsorships to enable them to bid for the best conference affiliations and teams possible, based on the payout to each team. The Gator Bowl selects the sixth SEC team and the fourth Big Ten after the four BCS bowls make their picks in early December.

“We think this deal will position us to move up the ladder,” Catlett said.

Darcel Walker, Tax Slayer.com’s director of growth, said the company’s dive into college football that began last year is a natural, since their marketing is geared toward college-age and young adults.

“We provide affordable, online tax assistance to an age group that loves college football,” he said. “And almost everyone at our offices are college football fans, especially in the SEC.”

Walker, who went to South Carolina, also said the deal is a good mix for another reason: TaxSlayer.com provides free tax assistance for active-duty military.

“I was in the Navy and spent two weeks at NAS Jacksonville in 1999,” Walker said.

“That was long enough to realize the importance of the military community in Jacksonville. We’re especially looking forward to this relationship from that standpoint.”

The company that was the forerunner to TaxSlayer.com was formed in Augusta in 1965 by Jimmy Rhodes, a graduate of Augusta State College. Walker said the name TaxSlayer actually referred to its first software tax program that was geared for other tax professionals.

The TaxSlayer.com website was launched in 1999 and the company name was changed.

“The name is already getting us some attention,” Smith said. “We think they’re going to be a great sponsor for us.”

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