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PGA Tour lining up new sponsors

PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem has held discussions with energy, retail and environmental companies to replace some struggling auto and financial sponsors of the U.S. golf tour if needed.

The PGA, which operates the main professional U.S. golf tours, depends on corporate sponsors such as U.S. automaker General Motors to help support its tournaments.

However, the turmoil in the auto and financial services sectors has left the sport vulnerable to a loss of marketing and advertising dollars.

“There are a number of companies clearly cutting back on their sports marketing budgets. We anticipate some of those kind of conversations,” Finchem told the Reuters Media Summit in New York on Wednesday.

“We’ve got to assume and prepare for some slippage, and prepare for some replacement there.”

Finchem said the PGA had already held a wide range of discussions with companies about adding new sponsors or expanding existing deals if necessary.

Finchem said Toyota Motor Corp, the world’s largest automaker, could be one candidate for a bigger marketing presence in U.S. golf, while others could come from industries that “have performed relatively well during the downturn”.

Such sectors include energy, the environment and retail, and Finchem mentioned the world’s largest retailer Wal-Mart may be one company that could broaden its role.

Finchem said ticket and other sales remained “reasonably robust” in 2008, but it is unlikely to be able to sidestep “a pullback in spending in the branded area, advertising area — those things come home to roost” in a downturn.

He said advertising and public relations budgets were often the first trimmed by corporations in recessions, although Finchem added that in the past the PGA Tour has come through any cutbacks “reasonably well”.


December 4, 2008

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