SBJ/June 11-17, 2012/Marketing and Sponsorship

USGA signs Chevron as sponsor

Chevron, which ended a four-year association with Tiger Woods’ World Challenge event six months ago, is back in the golf business with a corporate partnership at the U.S. Golf Association.

The Northern California-based global energy giant will announce its new sponsorship this week at San Francisco’s Olympic Club during the U.S. Open, the USGA’s premier event.

Neither side would comment on the terms of the deal, but industry sources said that Chevron’s three-year agreement runs $4 million a year, which includes media commitments for TV, digital and print advertising.

Even though the USGA and Chevron just closed the deal, Chevron has TV advertising ready to run on the NBC broadcast.

“With the U.S. Open coming to Northern California, Chevron had a keen awareness of the Open and the kind of platform that they could build on,” said Sarah Hirshland, the USGA’s senior managing director of business affairs.

Chevron initiated talks with the USGA around the first of the year and outlined an educational experience called STEM (science, technology, education and math) that the company wanted to integrate into its next golf sponsorship.

Having already bought a major hospitality package for the U.S. Open at Olympic, Chevron explored ways with the USGA to build its involvement into a full-fledged sponsorship.

Hirshland said the USGA has been happy with the size of its partner program at four — American Express, IBM, Lexus and Rolex — and wasn’t looking for an additional partner. But the educational component to Chevron’s planned activation sold the governing body of U.S. golf on moving forward with the negotiations.

“We certainly were not looking to add partners just for the sake of adding partners,” Hirshland said. “But we are open to partnerships that really have an impact and that represent an authentic fit for the USGA.”

Chevron will debut its STEM Zone in the corporate partner pavilion where the AmEx Experience and the Lexus Performance Center also will be situated. The site will be near the clubhouse in a highly trafficked area of the course.

The STEM Zone will be an interactive area that shows how the concepts of math, science and technology are inherent to the game of golf, linking, for example, math to the handicap system, science to course maintenance and ball flight, and technology to the TV broadcast. Fans will have the opportunity to sit in a broadcast studio, read from a teleprompter and offer commentary on golf highlights.

Chevron has run the STEM Zone in other events, such as the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, for select youth organizations, but the U.S. Open will be the first time that the area has been open to all fans, said Glenn Weckerlin, Chevron’s global director for brand and product line management.

Hirshland led the talks for the USGA with Weckerlin. Chevron’s agency, IMG, also was involved in the talks, which carried on through the departure of the USGA’s chief marketer, Barry Hyde, who left in April to join Wasserman Media Group.

Hirshland said she intends to replace the position, but it will not be with the same CMO title that Hyde carried.

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