The ReliaQuest Bowl puts cybersecurity in the national spotlight

There are many customs and traditions that determine ringing in the new year. New Year’s Eve parties, watching the ball drop over Times Square in New York, champagne toasts at midnight, singing Auld Lang Syne…and college football. It’s Bowl season, baby!

One of the bowls has a new sponsor. The bowl game played at Tampa Bay’s Raymond James Stadium was known as the Hall of Fame Bowl from 1986 to 1995. It was sponsored by Outback Steakhouse and was called the Outback Bowl from 1996 to 2022. When the game is played on Monday, Jan. 2, 2023, will be the newly renamed ReliaQuest Bowl.

I’m generally against corporate sponsorships of things like racing cars, cycling teams or anything else. Personally, I feel that sports in general have a very limited audience and the sponsor brand is so fleeting that it is virtually impossible to get the exposure or return on investment to make it worthwhile. It’s more a matter of ego, or just a personal hobby or interest of the CEO, but not necessarily a valuable marketing investment.

This is different for me. The sponsorship will bring attention to cyber security and increase brand recognition for ReliaQuest in ways that other sponsorships simply cannot match. College football has a huge audience in general, but the holiday season usually draws an even bigger audience. The ReliaQuest name has been seen and heard for weeks leading up to bowl games and will be front and center on Monday as the Mississippi State Bulldogs take on the Illinois Fighting Illini. ReliaQuest also created a commercial that will run multiple times during the ReliaQuest Bowl and will also run during some of the other college bowl games.

Investment in Tampa Bay

There are many college bowl games with many different sponsors, but this one has a unique connection to Tampa Bay. The game is played in Tampa Bay. Outback Steakhouse, the former sponsor, is based in Tampa Bay. When Outback folded and they needed a new sponsor, they found a new sponsor also based in Tampa Bay.

I spoke with Brian Murphy, founder and CEO of ReliaQuest, about how the sponsorship deal came together. He told me he was in San Francisco at the time – finalizing a deal to acquire Digital Shadows – when he got the call.

They explained that they have had a lot of interest from other brands, but that ReliaQuest is doing a lot with them in the community already. Murphy relayed a paraphrased version of the conversation: “You’re very cooperative. You are based here. We like the way the chips line up and think this could be quite interesting. What do you think?”

Even though he was in the middle of finalizing an acquisition deal, he committed to the sponsorship in less than 12 hours – and the ReliaQuest Bowl was born.

Momentum wave

Combined with the acquisition of Digital Shadows, securing the ReliaQuest Bowl sponsorship is the icing on the cake of an amazing year for ReliaQuest. The company is booming and riding a wave of momentum through 2023.

The prevailing story for 2022 was that the economy is weak and the technology and cyber security markets are suffering. Household names such as Amazon, Facebook and Twitter, as well as major cybersecurity vendors with hundreds of millions of dollars in investor funding, dominated the headlines with news of cutbacks and tens of thousands of laid-off workers. The “sky is falling” narrative is clickbait, but the reality is that most tech and cybersecurity companies are doing just fine — and some are just crushing it.

ReliaQuest is one of those companies. One of the key differences that separates ReliaQuest and other successful companies from struggling cybersecurity vendors and tech companies is the company’s underlying culture and focus.

Startups trying to IPO and companies focused on pleasing investors or shareholders can often achieve significant short-term success. But long-term value and resilience to adverse market weather comes from a relentless focus on solving problems for customers.

Murphy and I talked about this Steve Jobs quote, which refers to a quote attributed to Henry Ford, although it’s unlikely Ford actually said it):

“Some say give the customers what they want, but that’s not my approach. Our job is to understand what they will want before they do it. I think Henry Ford once said, “If I asked the customers what they wanted, they would tell me a faster horse.” People don’t know what they want until you show it to them. That’s why I never rely on market research. Our task is to read things that are not yet on the page.”

Murphy pointed out, “That’s how you ask the question. We don’t ask customers what they want. We ask, “What problems do you solve?”

He explained, “No one is asking for a security enterprise platform. What they will describe is, “I need visibility into my cloud environments and I have more than one. I need to be able to see my cloud environments next to my endpoints.’

According to Murphy, this is the secret behind ReliaQuest’s success and is what will continue to accelerate the company’s momentum. They listen to customers and learn about the problems they need to solve and let that guide and influence where they invest and work on next. The bottom line is that it’s about satisfying the customer’s needs, rather than trying to convince customers that they need what you made.

ReliaQuest Bowl

Cybersecurity and college football don’t usually go together. We don’t generally think of Tampa Bay, Florida as a base for tech or cybersecurity companies. But ReliaQuest is changing that, and the ReliaQuest Bowl will expose the brand to a huge national audience.

Tune in Monday, January 2nd to watch the ReliaQuest Bowl. Watch the game because college bowl games are a fun part of New Year’s celebrations—but also check it out to support a Tampa Bay-based cybersecurity vendor that’s thriving because it’s focused on building a company the right way and providing what customers .

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