Nissan has extended its partnership with the Heisman Trust to 2016, hosting a tailgate party during the North American International Auto Show featuring Heisman Trophy winner and Hall of Fame pro player Barry Sanders.

Nissan hosted a Heisman tailgate party Monday night, highlighting its extended ties to the top college football player award on a night when the national championship was decided.

Jon Brancheau, vice president for North American marketing, said Heisman ties, now running to 2016, will include more consumer activities such as the Trophy Tour, on-line voting and an awards sweepstakes.

“The Heisman Trophy really represents the epitome in excellence in college football and only one player each year actually gets the honor of being the Heisman Trophy recipient and join the fraternity of other Heisman winners,” said Brancheau.

“Not only does it align well in terms of excellence with the Nissan brand, but also in terms of innovation. Frankly, it’s a very, very competitive environment, and if you are not innovative in the way that you play the game, team sport, and individual performance and excellence, you don’t have a shot at winning the Heisman Trophy. It’s a nice alignment for the Nissan brand, and we couldn’t be more proud to be partners with the Heisman Trust.”

“Heisman House” commercials became a feature of the 2011 ad campaign, with 11 former trophy winners amid one of the tightest ballots in years.

As LSU and Alabama battled for the BCS college football crown Monday, Heisman winner and Detroit Lions star Barry Sanders was on hand, saying Nissan and the award are a great match.

“Being able to do the Heisman House was one of the real unique experiences I’ve ever had,” Sanders said. “I’ve done commercials before, but none with that sort of a roster of athletes. We all had a blast. We’re not the best actors, but it was great sharing stories and getting together.”

“You look at Doug Flutie, Vinnie Testaverde or Marcus Allen, guys who I’ve had a thrill watching play. It was just a very unique experience.”

Alabama won the game and the BCS title, which Nissan was a sponsoring partner of, with talk already beginning on which players will be on Heisman watch in 2012.

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