Verizon will discontinue sponsorship of PGA Tour's Heritage Classic on Hilton Head Island
PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem foreshadowed a little gloom last week regarding the future of some PGA Tour title sponsors, and we’ve already got our first casualty: The Verizon Heritage Classic on Hilton Head Island, staged on Harbour Town Golf Links will not renew its contract after it ends in 2010.
It doesn’t surprise me that the first stop to lose its sponsor is a one that Tiger Woods doesn’t compete in. The Heritage traditionally plays the week after the Masters, so many big names take the week off. It’s not Tiger’s doing the sponsorship is gone. Prize money has skyrocketed out of control since his debut to the point that now it just doesn’t make sense to have a $5-7 million purse without the “Tiger bump” on TV and around area businesses that benefit. Tiger Woods returned to the Buick Open this year at Warwick Hills Golf and Country Club in Michigan, but it wasn’t enough to save the tournament, which has been replaced with the Greenbrier Classic next year.
But on the other hand, I am surprised that the first sponsorship to go down is a profitable telecommunications company like Verizon. I assumed the stops in trouble were sponsored by auto companies and banks, basically those that took federal money and have to lay low for awhile and not be seen spending taxpayer bailout money eating shrimp and drinking Dom in a hospitality tent overlooking the 18th hole.
But perhaps the most alarming phrase I keep hearing is companies that paraphrase the following: “We look forward to continuing sponsorship with the PGA Tour, just not as the title sponsor of a tournament.”
It’s a phrase that was used for the Heritage, as well as countless times on the LPGA Tour as they’ve hemorrhaged events recently. I’m wondering if the marketing and advertising departments of these companies are concluding that sponsoring a golf event for a week just isn’t the most effective use of their ad dollars anymore. Maybe they’re all just pumping that money into grassroots “social networking,” or just shoving the money under a mattress for now.
Tournament officials will begin looking for a new title sponsor after 2010. Harbour Town has been a staple on tour for decades, and one the public can play. But from a sponsor’s perspective, it might make more sense to move the tournament to a larger media market, like possibly Charleston (or Kiawah Island) up the road. Or maybe Atlanta will be up for hosting a springtime event as well as the Tour Championship.
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