SBJ/September 12 - 18, 2005/Marketingsponsorship
After losing LPGA event, Sacramento may lose marketer
Published September 12, 2005
The exit of the Longs Drugs Challenge LPGA Tour event raises the question of whether Sacramento will also lose the tournament’s owner — a sports marketing company that has helped the region host the national Olympic track and field trials.
Raycom Sports, which has sports marketing and event management skills not readily found in the Northern California region, will stay only if it finds work to do.
Longs Drug Stores Corp. renewed its deal but wanted the event near its headquarters.
Raycom would like to start a replacement LPGA tournament in Sacramento and has begun looking for a title sponsor. Sacramento has been one of the LPGA’s top markets for fan support and TV ratings, and it was successful enough to entice Longs to continue as title sponsor for nine years.
Longs Drug Stores Corp. agreed to renew its title sponsorship for another three years if Raycom moved the tourney closer to the chain’s Walnut Creek, Calif., headquarters, where it has more stores and vendor offices than it does in the Sacramento area.
Charlotte-based Raycom came to Sacramento in 1997 to take over the tournament. The local Raycom office resurrected the competition after previous owners abandoned it.
Raycom also has operated two other golf tournaments and managed sponsorship sales for the 2000 and 2004 U.S. Olympic Track & Field Trials — and would do the same if Sacramento wins the 2008 trials.
Raycom Sports will keep its five-person Roseville, Calif., office at least until 2006, said Brian Flajole, local Raycom chief, tourney director and a Raycom vice president. Asked if the office would close if Raycom can’t line up a new local tournament, he said, “we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.”
Flajole said he counts on Sacramento acquiring the 2008 Olympic trials and that Raycom might create other sports events in Sacramento. In addition to the Longs Drugs Challenge, Raycom owns and operates an LPGA Tour stop in Mobile, Ala., and until a few years ago also had a tournament in Nashville.
Raycom will open a permanent office with one or two people later this year near the Challenge’s new home. The Roseville staff will commute between offices.
The Challenge continues to grow. Local sponsorship dollars are up 15 percent over last year. Its purse totals $1 million this year and will rise 10 percent next year to $1.1 million.
Raycom’s search won’t be easy since the Sacramento area lacks locally based corporations large enough to pony up $1.5 million for a title sponsorship.
The Senior PGA Tour’s Gold Rush Classic, the area’s only other pro golf contest this decade, disbanded in 2001 for lack of corporate support.
A new title sponsor might come from among Sacramento’s growing number of regional headquarters, particularly in finance and insurance.
Flajole won’t speculate about Raycom lining up a new sponsor. Neither will John McCasey, executive director of the Sacramento Sports Commission, which put on the two Olympic trials.
Raycom and Longs said they announced the move so that Raycom can begin searching for a backer for a new local competition. Those potential backers could then check out this year’s Challenge, scheduled for Oct. 3-9.
Companies also need time to decide if they have $1.5 million to spend on a title sponsorship. Raycom would consider a delay for a new tourney until 2007 if needed.
Raycom Sports could put together a new tourney with four months’ lead time, given its existing base of smaller sponsors and 1,000 volunteers, Flajole said. “We have the whole infrastructure already in place,” he said.
A new LPGA tournament wouldn’t clash with the relocated Longs Drugs Challenge, Flajole said. The Challenge has typically drawn 80 percent of its audience from Greater Sacramento, and 15 percent to 20 percent from the Bay Area. So in theory, a new tourney could keep at least four-fifths of the Challenge’s audience.
Kelly Johnson writes for the Sacramento Business Journal, an affiliated publication.