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SBD Global/September 28, 2012/Marketing and Sponsorship

Swiss Watchmakers Omega, Rolex Fight For Golfers At The Ryder Cup

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Europe's Justin Rose putts during a Ryder Cup practice round Wednesday.
One Ryder Cup battle is "shaping up to be more acrimonious than any golf match," according to Doug Ferguson of the AP. That's because two Switzerland watch companies are feuding. Last year, the PGA of America abruptly ended its 17-year sponsorship with Rolex and signed a five-year deal with Omega, "its fierce rival." It was "a major coup" for Omega. Rolex had "practically owned the golf market until this deal came along," and the tension between the two companies escalated to the point this summer that Greg Norman was banned from a Ryder Cup press conference and kept from playing the Senior British Open pro-am. Omega's deal with the PGA of America, which goes through '16, "gives the company marketing rights at the PGA Championship and the Ryder Cup." However, it gets only the Ryder Cup in America, and "that's where it gets messy." The European Tour, which has joint ownership of the Ryder Cup and negotiates its own marketing deals, "has a longtime relationship with Rolex." The PGA of America runs the Ryder Cup this year, meaning Rolex is "not allowed any presence at Medinah Country Club" in the Chicago suburbs. The watch wars are "a delicate subject at Rolex headquarters in Geneva," and the company was not willing to comment beyond an email from spokesperson Virginie Chevailler that "we can only regret the current nonuniform approach of the communications surrounding the tournament." Omega since has signed up U.S. Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III as an ambassador, and it presented all the American players at the Ryder Cup with "a specially designed watch with a sapphire crystal case and the Ryder Cup emblem in the dial." Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson have deals with Rolex. Meanwhile, Rolex "traditionally presents the European team" with watches. Sergio Garcia has a contract with Omega (AP, 9/26).
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