State Farm on Friday announced that the '11 LPGA State Farm Classic “will be the last" for the Illinois-based insurer after sponsoring the event for 19 years, according to Tim Landis of the Springfield STATE JOURNAL-REGISTER. State Farm Assistant VP/Marketing Mark Gibson said, “It has truly been a privilege and an honor for us to be associated with this tournament in Springfield, and we did not come to this decision lightly.” Gibson said that the decision “reflects changes in marketing strategy as consumers rely more on wireless and Internet technology to make buying decisions.” He added, “This is not an issue about savings. This is an issue of us looking at our business as a whole and all the ways we reach consumers.” State Farm Classic Exec Dir Kate Peters said that tournament organizers “knew the loss of the sponsorship was a possibility.” Landis reported State Farm recently has "cut back on its involvement in the NCAA and the NFL." Peters: "This is not limited to this golf tournament" (Springfield STATE JOURNAL-REGISTER, 2/26). In Springfield, Dave Kane wrote “given the still-shaky economy, how many companies out there would want to take a chance on sponsoring a pro golf tournament that will require -- for starters -- a purse of more than a million dollars?” Kane: “Talk about a cloud hanging over a big event. Barring a miraculous find of a new sponsor in the next few months, the logo for the Classic might as well be a big question mark. The history of the Classic is full of pivotal times when the event beat the odds and survived. But those odds are more daunting this time” (SJ-R.com, 2/26).
ADD TO THE LIST: GOLF DIGEST’s Ron Sirak wrote the “already embattled LPGA” has its “thinnest schedule since 1972 and this does not bode well” for ’12. The loss of State Farm as a sponsor “throws a new challenge” at LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan, as the tour has been hit by a "devastating confluence of events.” The tour is “still searching for a star upon whom to hang its marketing hat,” and having “an American emerge as the best player in the world wouldn't hurt.” Sirak: “That's something over which Whan has no control. He came into the year looking to add new events, and now it seems part of the challenge will be keeping existing ones. All this could mean that the LPGA … could become even more of a global tour and perhaps lose its identity as it is absorbed by the tours in Europe and Asia” (GOLFDIGEST.com, 2/25).
ESPN’s Erin Andrews said that she "remains 'really confused' regarding the controversy surrounding her endorsement deal for Reebok footwear shortly after she reported on problems with Nike cleats during the Rose Bowl," according to Neil Best of NEWSDAY. In her first public comments on the matter, Andrews said that she was “doing her job when she reacted to ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit saying TCU players were slipping by obtaining and relaying a comment from the team’s equipment manager.” Andrews said of her endorsement deal, “First of all, it’s a fitness shoe, not a football cleat. Second of all, it’s a female fitness shoe. I didn’t see any females on the field at the Rose Bowl. My third thing is, you’ve got to be crazy to think, given how under scrutiny I am, how people dissect every little thing I say, I do, who I hang out with, to think for a minute I’m going to think to myself, ‘Oh, yeah, I’m going to go after this company right now.’ Are you kidding me?” (NEWSDAY, 2/27). Meanwhile, NEWSDAY’s Best noted Andrews “has been exploring media life beyond sports.” It began with a “long run on ‘Dancing With the Stars’ last spring and has expanded further under a new contract with ESPN that allows for such work as contributing to ‘Good Morning America’ on ABC.” Andrews: “'Dancing With the Stars' really opened my eyes to different things to try, not so much entertainment but just different ways to branch out a little bit.” The “biggest moment to date” came yesterday when Andrews covered the Oscars by “working the red carpet and interviewing winners for GMA.” Still, Andrews continues “working many big college football and basketball games, even as she adds to her portfolio” (NEWSDAY, 2/27).
Golfer Martin Kaymer wore a scarf designed by Jacksonville-based Black Fly Outfitters during the final two days of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship this weekend, and Black Fly Owner Vaughn Cochran said that he "filled nearly 100 internet orders for the scarf between 6 pm Saturday and about 3 pm Sunday," according to Garry Smits of the FLORIDA TIMES-UNION. Cochran said, "On a good day, we'd sell two or three of them. Some days we wouldn't sell any. This is phenomenal. I've got Martin Kaymer to thank." Smits notes the scarf is called a "Black Fly Buff" and is "made of synthetic material with UV and moisture protection." The scarf, which retails for $23, was initially designed for "use by fly fishermen to protect their heads or neck from sunburn." Kaymer indicated that he "bought the scarf in California last week with the idea of using it for warmth on chilly days on the golf course." He added that he "got the idea from watching soccer players in Europe wearing the scarves." Cochran said that his phone "has been ringing nonstop," and he is expected to do an interview with Golf Digest later this week. Cochran "expects more interest" in the scarf, but "said at this point all purchases will have to be ordered" (FLORIDA TIMES-UNION, 2/28). GOLF WORLD MONDAY's Marty Hackel notes the buff "originated in Spain," and the CoolMax fabric used in the product "is woven in a tube that can be worn in many different ways by men and women" (GOLF WORLD MONDAY, 2/28 issue).
U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.) Friday said that she "won't back away from her efforts" to "get rid of the Pentagon's sponsorships" for motorsports teams, according to a front-page piece by Barbara Barrett of the CHARLOTTE OBSERVER. McCollum "plans to file legislation to prohibit Pentagon sponsorships of dragsters, Indy cars, stock cars and motorcycle racing, affecting just about every level of motorsports." She said that it "doesn't make sense to keep the benefits when cuts are being made to community health care, programs for homeless veterans and Head Start." McCollum also "will broaden her fight to repeal tax breaks for track owners." Race track owners "receive tax breaks, worth $45 million in 2010 and 2011." The deal "allows them to accelerate the depreciation of amenities and other improvements to their tracks." McCollum said that she will "file legislation to repeal that tax depreciation benefit." U.S. Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) said, "This shows that she is on the warpath against NASCAR. This is more about her disdain for NASCAR than it really is about saving taxpayers' money." McCollum's office said that the U.S. Defense Department "spends promotional money for drag racing, motocross and even snowmobile races." The "largest amount may be the $20 million the National Guard spends" to sponsor Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s No. 88 Sprint Cup Series ride. The U.S. Army pays $7.4M to sponsor Ryan Newman's No. 39 Cup ride, while the U.S. Air Force spends $1.6M to sponsor A.J. Allmendinger's No. 43 car in the Cup series. The Army "spends an additional $8 million for NASCAR programs on its recruiting efforts" and "puts $3.9 million more into the sponsorship of Tony Schumacher's NHRA dragster." The Air Force's NASCAR spending is "less than 2 percent of its marketing budget." The National Guard's "outlay last year, $32.7 million, represented 14 percent of its marketing budget" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 2/26).
In Toronto, Dean McNulty reports GM Racing Dir Mark Kent "is not ruling out" that the Camaro "will be the new model Chevrolet is planning to enter in NASCAR" in '13. That is a "reversal of sorts from a decision to not enter the Camaro into the Nationwide series last season when Chrysler and Ford entered their pony cars -- Challenger and Mustang respectively." Kent: "We just could not get the Camaro to fit the NASCAR template, without compromising its unique styling." But he said the Camaro model being used in NASCAR in the future is "not a dead issue." Kent: "We are learning a lot about how we can get more relevance into the car without sacrificing performance or styling" (TORONTO SUN, 2/28). Kent added that the "best thing about the 2013 Cup cars will be the increased brand identity for all the manufacturers, no matter which model is selected" (ESPN.com, 2/27).
NOT GOING DOWN THAT ROAD: F1 team McLaren Mercedes CFO Andy Myers said that it "will not be following its British rival Williams to the stock market." The GUARDIAN's Sylt & Reid note Williams Wednesday "will become the first F1 team to float when it lists 28% of its shares on the Frankfurt stock exchange." Williams "has reduced and tightened the flotation share price range from" about $33-40 (all figures U.S.) a share to between $34-38 a share, "ahead of pricing" tomorrow (GUARDIAN, 2/28).
COST SAVINGS: The BBC's Andrew Benson reported F1 team Red Bull Racing's Renault engines "will be renamed Infiniti this season in a move that will boost the world champion team's budget" by at least $11M. The engines "will be the same, branding aside, but the plan means Red Bull will get their engines for free." That will save the team about $11M per year, "the cost of all customer engine supplies in Formula 1." Benson wrote Infiniti is "using F1 to boost its global profile" (BBC.co.uk, 2/27).
NOTES: The AP's John Marshall reported sales of Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne's licensed merchandise on NASCAR.com "is at a rate nearly three times all other drivers and the sales pace is more than double" last year's Daytona 500 winner, Jamie McMurray (AP, 2/26).....Great Clips will title sponsor the Labor Day weekend NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway for a second consecutive year. The Sept. 3 race will be titled the Great Clips 300. Great Clips sponsors the No. 38 Chevy driven by Jason Leffler and Kasey Kahne in the series, and it is the longest-standing primary sponsor in Nationwide, having been a sponsor since '00 (AMS).
Under Armour has signed former Univ. of Alabama WR Julio Jones to a multiyear endorsement deal. Jones, who is projected as a top-10 pick in the NFL Draft, will appear in an advertising and in-store campaign this year. He also will be featured in a TV spot and digital campaign for Under Armour's new E39 shirt. The spot was scheduled to debut last weekend during NFL Network's coverage of the NFL Scouting Combine. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. Jones becomes the second high-profile prospect to sign with Under Armour, as former Auburn Univ. QB and Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton signed with the company earlier this month (THE DAILY).
NOT SO SPECIAL FX: The BIRMINGHAM POST's Gregg Evans reported EPL club Aston Villa is "searching for a new shirt sponsor after their record-breaking deal with FX Pro came to an end by mutual consent." The Russian-owned company, which also sponsors EPL club Fulham, "had an option in the contracts to withdraw from either deal at the end of the season." FX Pro was "trying to get Villa to drive down prices for two years although the club were not willing to re-negotiate, and now expect to have a new partner at full value" for next season. Aston Villa's status in the EPL is "still in the balance" as they sit just five points above the relegation zone (BIRMINGHAM POST, 2/26).
CLEAR CALL: The MLS Philadelphia Union on Friday announced that they have added Verizon Communications as a Founding Corporate Partner in a sponsorship deal that also makes Verizon the official provider of all non-wireless service for the club and PPL Park. Verizon also will support the team's Mobile Marketing Tour grassroots marketing effort and will serve as the official sponsor of the Spanish-language section of the team's official website (Philadelphia Union).