SBD/March 7, 2011/Marketing and Sponsorship

CME Group Agrees To Title Sponsor LPGA's Season-Ending Tournament

CME Group has signed a three-year deal to title sponsor the LPGA's season-ending Titleholders tournament. The inaugural CME Group Titleholders will serve as the tour’s season finale and will be comprised of a 72-person field made up of three qualifiers from every official '11 LPGA Tour tournament (LPGA). SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL's Michael Smith reports the CME Group Titleholders, "played in mid-November in Orlando, is a new event on the 2011 schedule." The event "replaces the Tour Championship, which previously had been the season-ender." The LPGA plans to "use the year-ender as a way to recognize each title sponsor, hence the name Titleholders." Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, but title sponsorships on the LPGA "can run from the low to mid-seven figures." CME Group Exec Chair Terry Duffy said, "The LPGA has proven to be a good fit because of the way the players interact with our customers in a relaxed environment. They’re not intimidating, they’re not standoffish and many of the golfers are still e-mailing back and forth with our clients. All of the positive feedback resonated loud and clear back to us" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 3/7 issue). Duffy said the “customer feedback that we've gotten as they've played with the ladies in our pro-am has been second to none. We wanted to be part of something a little bit bigger with the LPGA. When Mike came to me with this concept, I thought it was a more unique event, and that's what CME deserves." Whan added that Rolex is joining the Titleholders as an “official partner.” Whan: “We're going to have a couple of pretty big names making this a pretty significant event" ("Golf Central," Golf Channel, 3/6). GOLFWEEK.com's Beth Ann Baldry noted caddies will wear bibs "featuring the LPGA logos from the tournament at which the players qualified." The event’s $1.5M purse will include the tour’s richest first-place prize: $500,000 (GOLFWEEK.com, 3/6).

SOME GOOD NEWS FOR TOUR: In Orlando, Jeff Shain noted the deal with CME marks the "second new sponsor in recent months" for an LPGA event after RR Donnelley "signed on to underwrite the Founders Cup." It also "countered news last week" that longtime LPGA sponsor State Farm "would be ending its relationship with an event in Springfield, Ill." (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 3/7). In Illinois, Dave Kane noted Springfield's status "as a stop on the LPGA Tour could be uncertain at best when the State Farm Classic comes to a close June 12 at Panther Creek Country Club." Everyone involved with the event "acknowledges the difficulty of finding a new sponsor -- or network of sponsors -- to fill a seven-figure monetary void." Tournament Exec Dir Kate Peters said, "Nobody’s more passionate about this event than our local team. We have to convey the impact this event has on the community. We might have to change the (sponsorship) model a bit, maybe look at several sponsors instead of one large one." State Farm Assistant VP/Marketing Mark Gibson classified his company’s partnership with the tournament as “all very positive.” Gibson said that State Farm "hasn’t had any inquiries from other businesses interested in the Springfield tournament" (Springfield STATE JOURNAL-REGISTER, 3/6).
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