SBD/Issue 221/Sponsorships, Advertising & Marketing

Buick Pulls Backing Of PGA Tour Buick Open, Buick Invitational

PGA Tour Set To Announce Replacement 
For Buick Open's Late July Date
The PGA Tour yesterday announced that Buick has withdrawn its backing of the Buick Open in Michigan and the Buick Invitational in San Diego. Buick was contracted through '10 as owner of the Buick Open and title sponsor of the Buick Invitational. Buick Golf Marketing Manager Larry Peck said the decision to end the 51-year PGA Tour relationship was made internally and not by the judge overseeing GM's bankruptcy restructuring. Buick also dropped its status as official car of the PGA Tour, a deal the Tour has quietly shopped this summer but has been unable to find a buyer for. Peck said Buick will look to reinvest some of the estimated low-eight-figure spend on golf or other properties with an emphasis on product exposure. "We're starting with a clean sheet of paper about where we'll go from here," he said. "Everything has a potential as long as it's innovative and cost efficient." The PGA Tour in a statement said it will announce today a replacement for the Buick Open's late July date for next season. Sources said The Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia has signed at least a one-year deal to fill that slot. The Tour also said it is still "exploring opportunities" to return to Michigan in the future (Jon Show, SportsBusiness Journal). Golf Channel's Todd Lewis said, "It wasn’t too long ago Buick sponsored four PGA Tour events in one year. Now, one of the oldest sponsors in golf, dating back five decades plus, no longer has its name on any Tour event" ("Golf Central," Golf Channel, 8/4).

WARWICK HILLS MEETING WITH TOUR REPS: Warwick Hills Golf & Country Club GM Rich Fairman, whose club hosted the Buick Open, said that club officials "have met with PGA Tour representatives to discuss the process of securing a title sponsor" for a future Tour event. In Detroit, Carlos Monarrez notes a potential sponsor would have to commit "about $6[M] toward the expense of a tournament -- a daunting challenge in this economy." Meanwhile, Peck said that there is "precedent for the hiatus," as the tournament was not held from '70-71, but "he did not want to offer false hope for a return" for Buick. Peck: "We're starting out with a clean sheet of paper. We're not looking at that possibility at this point in time. So I'd hate to really offer any glimmer of hope with respect to that" (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 8/5).

PLEASE, DON'T LEAVE ME: In Michigan, Laura Angus reports Genesse County leaders yesterday began a "positive letter writing campaign" asking GM CEO Fritz Henderson and PGA Tour Exec VP & Chief of Operations Rick George to "revisit this decision and give the community a chance to show its support of the event." Flint Area Conventions & Visitors Bureau President Jerry Preston said, "Give us this final year. Let's see what we can produce for Buick and the Buick Open." Meanwhile, Michigan state Rep. Paul Scott said that he will "introduce legislation to make Michigan the most competitive state for hosting golf tournaments" once the legislature re-convenes this fall. Angus notes that would "probably involve offering some form of tax breaks" (FLINT JOURNAL, 8/5). In Detroit, Angelique Chengelis notes the PGA Tour's departure from Michigan leaves the state "without a regular stop on any major tour -- the LPGA Tour had the Oldsmobile Classic in suburban Lansing but that partnership ended in the late 1990s, and the Champions Tour played the Senior Players Championship in Dearborn from 1990-2006" (DETROIT NEWS, 8/5).

CALIFORNIA LOVE: In San Diego, Tod Leonard reports the PGA Tour event at Torrey Pines is "expected to live on into next year and beyond" despite Buick's departure. Buick had "one year left on its contract to sponsor" the '10 Buick Invitational at Torrey Pines, and with the company's departure, tournament organizer the Century Club of San Diego "will have to secure a new sponsor." Century Club President & General Chair Tom Wornham said that he is "'100[%] confident' a sponsor will be found to take over the 2010 event and stick with the tournament into the next PGA Tour television contract, which will run from 2011 through 2014." Wornham: "We're going to have success finding a new sponsor very quickly." Wornham said that the Century Club and the Tour "have had discussions with five or six serious sponsor candidates," and that he "hoped a deal would be in place by September." Leonard notes it has been "speculated that the Century Club and tour might be interested in a sponsorship pact with a large company that is locally or regionally based, such as Qualcomm or Sempra Energy." Another idea, which "may be nothing more than a dream, would have Tiger Woods hosting a West Coast tournament at Torrey Pines similar to the AT&T National" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 8/5). Buick Invitational Exec Dir Tom Wilson said that "bringing on a new sponsor this late" for the '10 event "would provide enough ramp-up time to effectively promote the tournament, which is scheduled for the last week of January." Wilson: "We'll just have a big (marketing) splash out of the box" (NORTH COUNTY TIMES, 8/5).

PGA Tour Expected To Replace Buick Open
With A Tournament At The Greenbrier
SEEING GREEN: In West Virginia, Eric Eyre reports the PGA Tour is "expected to replace the Buick Open with a golf tournament" at The Greenbrier, which has scheduled a news conference for this afternoon, "presumably to announce the new tournament." The tournament would be held August 5-9, 2010, and is "expected to be called The Greenbrier Open." Eyre notes Greenbrier County (WV) "has 1,300 hotel rooms, with 712 of those at The Greenbrier," and "many of those attending the event will likely also stay in Beckley, Covington, Va., Lexington, Va., and possibly as far away as Charleston and Roanoke, Va." The Greenbrier "has never played host to a PGA tournament," but the '79 Ryder Cup and '94 Solheim Cup "were held at the resort" (CHARLESTON GAZETTE, 8/5). Greenbrier Owner Jim Justice said, "I want a multi-year event, but we're ready to accept anything they put on the table" (GOLF WORLD, 8/10 issue).

MOVING UP THE LEADERBOARD? GOLFWEEK wrote officials for the PGA Tour Turning Stone Resort Championship in New York and Open in Arizona, "two Fall Series events not part of the FedEx Cup's regular season slate, must feel as if they are on deck for FedEx Cup promotions, given the two-year commitments each has made to the Fall Series." But "neither camp had much to say when asked about Greenbrier possibly getting an event." One FedEx Cup tournament director said, "If Buick leaves an open date, who's to say it has to go to a new tournament, because some of us are looking to move into better slots in the schedule. ... We certainly understand the game that's being played by the Tour" (, 8/4). In Milwaukee, Gary D'Amato reported golfers Jerry Kelly and Steve Stricker, who are hoping to save the Tour's annual stop in Milwaukee, have "talked to Tour officials about a new date ... and presumably the Buick Open date was discussed." However, without a new title sponsor, it is "doubtful" the tourney would be moved from its current date opposite the British Open (, 8/4).

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