SBD/February 28, 2011/Marketing and Sponsorship

State Farm Ending Title Sponsorship Of LPGA Event After This Year

State Farm has title sponsored the Springfield, Ill., event for 19 years
State Farm on Friday announced that the '11 LPGA State Farm Classic “will be the last" for the Illinois-based insurer after sponsoring the event for 19 years, according to Tim Landis of the Springfield STATE JOURNAL-REGISTER. State Farm Assistant VP/Marketing Mark Gibson said, “It has truly been a privilege and an honor for us to be associated with this tournament in Springfield, and we did not come to this decision lightly.” Gibson said that the decision “reflects changes in marketing strategy as consumers rely more on wireless and Internet technology to make buying decisions.” He added, “This is not an issue about savings. This is an issue of us looking at our business as a whole and all the ways we reach consumers.” State Farm Classic Exec Dir Kate Peters said that tournament organizers “knew the loss of the sponsorship was a possibility.” Landis reported State Farm recently has "cut back on its involvement in the NCAA and the NFL." Peters: "This is not limited to this golf tournament" (Springfield STATE JOURNAL-REGISTER, 2/26). In Springfield, Dave Kane wrote “given the still-shaky economy, how many companies out there would want to take a chance on sponsoring a pro golf tournament that will require -- for starters -- a purse of more than a million dollars?” Kane: “Talk about a cloud hanging over a big event. Barring a miraculous find of a new sponsor in the next few months, the logo for the Classic might as well be a big question mark. The history of the Classic is full of pivotal times when the event beat the odds and survived. But those odds are more daunting this time” (SJ-R.com, 2/26).

ADD TO THE LIST: GOLF DIGEST’s Ron Sirak wrote the “already embattled LPGA” has its “thinnest schedule since 1972 and this does not bode well” for ’12. The loss of State Farm as a sponsor “throws a new challenge” at LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan, as the tour has been hit by a "devastating confluence of events.” The tour is “still searching for a star upon whom to hang its marketing hat,” and having “an American emerge as the best player in the world wouldn't hurt.” Sirak: “That's something over which Whan has no control. He came into the year looking to add new events, and now it seems part of the challenge will be keeping existing ones. All this could mean that the LPGA … could become even more of a global tour and perhaps lose its identity as it is absorbed by the tours in Europe and Asia” (GOLFDIGEST.com, 2/25).
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