SBJ/June 20-26, 2011/Marketing and Sponsorship

RBS keeps spot in select club of USGA partners

The U.S. Golf Association and Royal Bank of Scotland have agreed to a multiyear extension that will keep the financial services giant as one of just four corporate sponsors of the U.S. Open.

RBS was in the final year of the initial four-year contract, which was signed in 2008. Terms of the new agreement have not been announced, but it is expected to go through 2015. USGA deals typically range from the low to mid-seven figures, and that does not include media buys with the U.S. Open’s network partners, NBC and ESPN.

RBS, which is represented by CAA Sports, joins Lexus as two partners that have extended their deals this year. American Express, the USGA’s first corporate partner, extended last year.

The fourth partner, IBM, launched USOpen.com in 2008 and redesigned the site this year. Its original four-year deal with the USGA began in 2008, which puts it in a renewal year after this U.S. Open as well.

The USGA, which didn’t have a corporate partner program until 2006, has had four partners since 2008, and it remains to be seen if it will expand. It has not set a ceiling for the program, but it also has not revealed any plans to expand it.

One category that’s thought to be in play if the USGA decides to take on another partner is telecommunications.

COURSE CONCIERGE: Inside its interactive fan area near the entrance to Congressional, American Express unveiled a new program called “Course Curator,” which enables cardholders to customize their day at the tournament.

AmEx’s “Course Curator” allows fans more control over their day at the Open.
If you can get past the confusing name, the interactive concierge does a pretty good job of guiding fans around the course and helping them find their favorite golfers. The idea came from card members, who told AmEx that they are sometimes overwhelmed when they enter a tournament and don’t know how to navigate the course, said David Eisenberg, AmEx’s manager of global sponsorships.

So AmEx’s sponsorship team came up with a way for fans to input the golfers they want to follow and the holes they want to see into a computer. The computer prints out directions to certain holes, where to find players, and how to avoid congested areas on the course, among other things.

The information is stored on a card and can be updated at one of the four interactive AmEx kiosks around the course. And with fans unable to bring their cellphones on the course, the kiosks allow fans to update their social network sites with updates from the course.

“This has the potential to really change the golf-day experience for fans,” said Barry Hyde, the USGA’s chief marketing officer. “This is AmEx’s concept and we’re just glad they chose to bring it to Congressional.”

AmEx has not decided yet whether it will take the same digital kiosks to Atlanta for the PGA Championship in August. The card company also is a sponsor of the PGA of America.

ULTIMATE DRIVING: Lexus, a USGA partner since 2007, supplied 264 vehicles to the USGA for player courtesy cars and for tournament officials. Dave Nordstrom, Lexus vice president of marketing, said it was a challenge to secure that many cars in the aftermath of the March tsunami in Japan, but the Toyota brand worked with dealers to make sure it could deliver.

“Lexus didn’t make a car for a month, so we had to prioritize,” Nordstrom said. “The dealers have been very supportive.”

Lexus’ fleet of cars, which is managed by Peter Jacobsen Sports, will be cleaned and transported to the U.S. Women’s Open and the Senior Open as well. New to this year is Lexus’ commitment to provide smaller fleets to the USGA’s 10 other national championships as well.

PHONES NOT WELCOME: The USGA has no plans to permit cellphones on the course during the U.S. Open, but the governing body has discussed the issue.

“Until we’re convinced that we can conduct our championships with cellphones on the course without a disruption, we’re not going to do it,” said USGA Executive Director Mike Davis. “And we’re not there yet.”

The PGA Tour decided earlier this year to allow cellphones on the course at its events, and the PGA of America allowed them on a trial basis at the Senior PGA Championship last month.
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