From the Rough

Golf without discretion

Crowne Plaza’s return could be a game-changer for tour sponsors

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It’s been a nerve-wracking couple of months for the tournament committee at Colonial Country Club; and those nerves had nothing to do with getting the course in shape for this week’s tournament that boasts the best field in the past 15 years of the event.

Like a couple of other high-profile tournaments on the tour schedule, Colonial was forced to sweat out the possibility of not having their current sponsor, Crowne Plaza, back in the fold for next year. But unlike the Heritage Classic (one of longest-running events on tour without a sponsor) and tournaments before it, Colonial won’t have to worry about finding a title sponsor for at least another year.

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram received word from Crowne Plaza that they’d be back in 2011 as the title sponsor at Colonial:

Gina LaBarre, Crowne Plaza ‘s vice-president of brand management, said Thursday that the company will continue to sponsor the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial in 2011 and discussions are ongoing about 2012.

“We will be here next year,” LaBarre said in an exclusive interview with the Star-Telegram. “It is definitely done.”

The hotel chain’s decision to re-up for 2011 is not only good news for the tournament, but the PGA Tour as well. Assuming Crowne Plaza didn’t take the option for next year, Colonial would have been the 10th tournament on the 2011 schedule without a title sponsor.

While it’s easy to call this a huge victory for professional golf, it’s still clear sponsors are very leery about jumping back in the water. Crowne Plaza would only confirm a deal was in place for 2011. That means the tournament will have to go through the wait-and-see scenario all over again next year.

Could the days of multi-year tournament deals be over? Possibly. I wouldn’t be shocked if the year-to-year agreements became the norm with some of the smaller events. Companies just aren’t as eager to jump in bed with tour events, as they were in the past, and negotiate long-term agreements.

What does that mean for the future? It means the days of sponsorship loyalty on the PGA Tour could be coming to a close. Year-to-year deals will bring a wait-and-see mentality that forces events to adjust on the fly. The days of companies like Buick being a title sponsor for fifty-plus years are over.

If anything, Crowne Plaza’s new deal for 2011 could be the first step towards a new sponsorship landscape on the PGA Tour.

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Written by Jonathan Wall

05/28/2010 at 11:23 am

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