Sunday, March 23, 2008

LPGA Sponsor Woes; Sign of Trouble?

We reported last week on the fact that Safeway is out as sponsor of the very popular (FBR esque) event at Superstition Mountain in Arizona. The East Valley Tribune continues their breaking coverage and asks some serious questions.

If you are a fan of the LPGA and the Safeway International, you’ve got to be a little bit scared. Four tournaments into the 2008 season and already two of those four events are on the endangered list and need sponsors if they are to return in 2009.

For those keeping track, the Fields Open in Hawaii — the second tournament of the season won by Paula Creamer — reportedly is not only searching for a new title sponsor, it also needs a new course to host the tournament.

Bill Huffman, the article's author, certainly takes a cynical point of view for the rest of the piece relating to the Safeway-LPGA relationship. Still, he has a good point that he makes early. When the LPGA Tour loses sponsors, it has a tougher time in replacing them with other quality sponsors in the same location as the tournament. He takes a guess later in the piece that there is a 50-50 chance that the AZ event will continue beyond this season. His rationale:
Now if this were the PGA Tour, I suppose Tim Finchem would just reach into his commissioner’s hat and pull out a new sponsor. But this is the LPGA,
where Carolyn Bivens rules with reckless abandon and sponsors are much harder to sell on the concept of watching women play golf. But it’s not about gender. The largest obstacle in securing a sponsor —for men’s or women’s golf — is finding the right fit in the community, or that elusive chemistry known as “bang for your buck.’’

Unfortunately, the Phoenix-Scottsdale area has proven time and again that it does not have the type of big corporate money it takes to support a professional golf tournament.

Chances are the LPGA does not have the “right fit’’ to save the Safeway
International despite the tournament’s popularity. So in the end, it will be up
to TGF, the Banner Health folks, Superstition Mountain and the local golf
community to solve what presently looks like a doomsday scenario.

I have to disagree with him because all of the aspects of an attractive tournament are there. The LPGA Tour's best demographics are women of all ages and an increasing number of amateur golfers that can learn more from watching fundamentally sound women than by watching hard-swinging men. I'm sure that there is a sponsor somewhere in there.

Personally, I would put out US Airways. They are based out of Phoenix - in part - because of their merger with America West Airlines. The airline is starting to turn a profit, and anything that would help the image of the airlines would be something most welcome. While they are charging you for a second bag, headphones, or anything else, they may as well throw some of that into the 2nd best golf tournament in the state...right?

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