Southwest Becomes the Official Airline of the SEC

Southwest teased yesterday that a big, exciting announcement was coming and today we finally know what that is. To say I’m confused would be an understatement but, Southwest Airlines has signed a multi-year sponsorship agreement with the Southeastern Conference (SEC) to become the conference’s official airline.

Southwest Official Airline of the SEC
Southwest has become the Official Airline of the SEC

In announcing the partnership, Jennifer Bridie, Vice President Marketing Communications & Strategy at Southwest Airlines, said:

“Southwest Airlines is proud to be joining the SEC roster as the airline of choice and getting sports fanatics to their favorite games with ease. SEC fans have been flying with us for decades, checking two free bags of gear, rescheduling road games without fees, and saving flight credits for the year their team finally makes it to the championship. With this unique sponsorship, we’re giving fans more flexibility to join the action as they root for their favorite teams and bringing them new opportunities throughout the season to get to know the Southwest Brand even better.”

Jennifer Bridie, VP Marketing Communications & Strategy

As part of the partnership, Southwest branding will be integrated into SEC Network programming specifically within SEC Nation, the network’s traveling football pre-game show.  Southwest will also have brand activation at the SEC Championship football game in Atlanta as well as other SEC championship events.

Southeastern Conference Commissioner, Greg Sankey, had this to say about the partnership:

“The SEC is pleased Southwest Airlines has joined our official sponsor program. The SEC sponsor program is important to the mission of supporting our now 16 institutions and Southwest Airlines makes stronger an already robust family of sponsors for the Conference. We look forward to Southwest Airlines’ participation in our programming and championship events.”

Greg Sankey, SEC Commissioner

Southwest Becoming the Official Airline of the SEC is Confusing to Me

As someone who grew up in SEC country and attended an SEC school (Geaux Tigers), this partnership is confusing to me. The majority of the schools are located in smaller towns served by regional partners of the Big 3 U.S. airline. Just off the top of my head I can name a list of schools located in cities that don’t have Southwest service.

  • University of Arkansas (Fayetteville, AR): Nearest Southwest service is in Tulsa, 100 miles Away
  • Texas A&M University (College Station, TX): Nearest Southwest service is in Houston, 90 miles away.
  • University of Georgia (Athens, GA): Nearest Southwest service is in Atlanta, 80 miles away.
  • Louisiana State University (Baton Rouge, LA): Nearest Southwest service is in New Orleans, 70 miles away.
Southwest Louisiana One
Southwest typically serves larger markets, which isn’t where the majority of the SEC schools are located.

These are just a few examples of universities located in cities with no Southwest service nearby. It’s unlikely that many fans will be using Southwest to travel to games when American, United, And Delta all fly into closer airports. Though, the airline has added a few extra flights for fans this fall.

Uncertainty is Swirling Around Southwest

An activist investor recently took a massive stake in Southwest and is looking to make changes. In a letter to the board the investor, Elliott Investment Management L.P., stated that the company’s “poor execution and leadership’s stubborn unwillingness to evolve the Company’s strategy have led to deeply disappointing results for shareholders, employees and customers alike.”

Elliott has called for the replacement of leadership as well as a comprehensive review of the business. Southwest CEO Bob Jordan even stated in the airline’s Q1 earnings call that the Dallas based carrier is “evaluating options to enhance our customer experience as we study product preferences and expectations, including onboard seating and our cabins.”

Many people, myself included, thought that today’s announcement would be related to one or more of the items listed above. Personally I thought that the airline was going to roll out assigned seating, given the fact that the announcement referenced check-in time, which is a big deal when flying Southwest.

Southwest Boarding Gate
Southwest doesn’t have assigned seats and passengers board based on the order that they checked-in.

It seems like we’ll have to wait a little longer to see what the airline’s long term plans are but, in the short term, you can expect to see Southwest branding at Southeastern Conference events this fall.


Southwest announced today that they have become the official airline of the SEC. The company is planning brand activations at SEC championship events as well as sponsorships of the SEC Nation TV show, airing on the SEC Network. This partnership is a little confusing to me based on Southwest’s route map and I believe the announcement fell somewhat flat as many of us were expecting major changes at the airline. If you have thoughts about the new partnership, drop a comment below.

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