SBJ/Jan. 24-30, 2011/Leagues and Governing Bodies

LPGA hires ESPN veteran Willett

The LPGA has hired a former ESPN sales veteran to lead its business development efforts.

Ed Willett spent nine years at ESPN before moving over to Quick Hit Inc. in 2009 and later Kaleidoscope Sports and Entertainment, a media and sponsorship consulting firm, where he led the sales efforts. He starts this week at the LPGA’s headquarters in Daytona Beach, Fla., and will report to CMO Jon Podany.

Willett has experience selling media at ESPN, USA Today and Sports Illustrated, which will help because media is a large part of what the LPGA sells as part of its title and corporate sponsorships, but Podany said Willett’s background and contacts played a larger role.

TeamWork Online worked with the LPGA on the search.

Willett’s hiring and the LPGA’s new schedule of 25 official events in 2011, which grew by one over 2010, have Podany optimistic going into the year.

“Two things have happened,” Podany said. “We’ve solidified the LPGA’s current partners, rebuilt the trust, and the economy is getting better. It’s not blazing, but people do seem to be opening the purse strings a bit for longer-term deals.”

The LPGA also has two additional tournaments in the pipeline for 2012, including the return of the event in Toledo, Ohio, which is taking a one-year hiatus this season.

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