Dec 17, 2009 at 06:42 PM
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PGA's Finchem: 'We've had a phenomenal year in the sponsorship marketplace.'

PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem stepped up to the mic today to address the Tiger situation as well as the overall business health of the PGA Tour. Here's what he had to say about the state of the PGA Tour's sponsorship renewals. Excerpts and transcript courtesy of and ASAP Sports.

On the state of sponsorship over the past year:

On the business side of the equation, our biggest concern, of course, for now over two years has been the economy, not just generally the economy, but in our case the impact of bankruptcies and things of that nature that have created challenges. But as we're now coming to the end of the year, I can report that we've had actually not just a good year in terms of the sponsorship area, I think an incredibly positive year.

When you consider that at the end of October we had already concluded seven major pieces of business, including an Accenture extension with the Accenture Match Play Championship, World Golf Championship, through '14, our Zurich sponsorship of New Orleans through 2014, our Bridgestone sponsorship of the World Golf Championships at Firestone through '14, Travelers sponsorship in Hartford through '14, and then the addition of the HSBC World Golf Championship we announced early in the year, which the first one was held in Shanghai and was a terrific success.

We lost because of bankruptcy the Buick Open and were successful in replacing it with what's going to be a very solid event at the Greenbrier in West Virginia contracted through 2016; and then SBS stepping up to -- our television partner in Korea, stepping up to sponsor our leadoff event for our tournament winners in Kapalua for 10 years. If we just stopped right there, we would have had a good year.

But then earlier this month, we announced the John Deere extension through 2016 in Moline, and this is a tournament that has the highest per capita charitable result of any tournament on the PGA TOUR, just an incredible job with charity. And just yesterday we learned that they'll be $1 million over what we had projected for them at some $6 million. I mean, it's just a phenomenal success.

We also announced in the last couple of weeks Waste Management replacing FBR as our sponsor in Phoenix for a six-year term through 2015, and I think this is particularly exciting, not just because Phoenix is our biggest event on the PGA TOUR from a gallery standpoint, but because Waste Management, a company that is very involved in green technologies, is going to use the tournament and its relationship with the PGA TOUR to communicate their commitment in this area and the programs that they foster in the green area at a time when people are increasingly concerned about those issues.

Today, in addition, I'd like to announce that -- I think it was reported in Chicago this morning that we have extended our BMW partnership with our playoff event, FedExCup Playoff event in Chicago through 2014.

I'd also like to announce a new strategic partnership with Sony, and this partnership is related to us working closely with Sony to bring 3-D television to PGA TOUR golf. The goal of this partnership is to actually be able to transmit as early as the 2011 Sony Open in Hawai'i golf coverage in a 3-D format. We're excited about that.

And this year, in 2010, our plan is to have at the Sony Open some 3-D-produced golf coverage from early in the week, players practicing, players playing a pro-am, just to show the members of the media and fans just what 3-D quality coverage can mean for the future and the state of the technology right now. So we're excited about that.

I'd also like to announce that we are essentially completed with a long-term relationship extension with Coca-Cola in Atlanta for THE TOUR Championship going out a good number of years, and we'll have a more official complete announcement on that in the next few weeks.

We've also reached agreement with Southern Company in Atlanta, Southern Company being very involved in THE TOUR Championship, sponsor of the Payne Stewart Award, to extend their sponsorship in those regards, as well, for at least six years.

And beyond that, I would just say that we have three or four other pieces of business that are well into the discussion phase that relate to long-term commitments. We have 13 major pieces of business we concluded this year, and if you'd have asked me in January where we would come out at the end of this year, given the difficulty of the economy, I would not have predicted that level of commitments this year. We've just had a phenomenal year, I think, in the sponsorship marketplace.

Looking Ahead to 2010, Finchem said:

With regard to sponsorship in '10, we view the TOUR in 2010 being fully sponsored from a television and tournament charitable standpoint. Now, when we entered the year, we had four situations, one of which in Memphis, the Stanford Company, virtually imploding; and then three bankruptcy-related issues, two with General Motors, which is Buick Open in Michigan and the Buick Invitational in San Diego, and then one with Chrysler, which was the Bob Hope Chrysler Open.

Of those four, the Buick Open has been replaced. Memphis is in a bridge situation probably for the second year, although we continue to talk to potential longer term sponsors, but will be operational and fine and a steady purse and charitable giving level in Memphis.

Hope and San Diego are not title-sponsored right now. We continue to be in conversations for potential titles for both of those tournaments, and I wouldn't rule out the possibility of having sponsorship involved in either or both. However, given the time frame that we've had to work with since the bankruptcy, it's very difficult for '10 because of the activation time that companies want to see. So we have contingency plans to bridge those tournaments in a combination of different ways if we don't achieve sponsorship, but it will not affect the conduct of the tournament, the purchase of television advertising, or a significant charitable commitment in either case.

In addition to that, I would just say that we're very, very -- we're not concerned about those tournaments longer term because we've had so much interest in them, and activation won't be an issue at 2010.

If you look at the sponsorship situation going beyond '10, I read something the other day where somebody had written that we were having trouble with renewals. It's just not the case. We just don't see a situation for '11. Even though we have a number of tournaments up in '10, I don't see a situation where -- we're going to have some turnover. We always have some turnover. Companies change their strategic direction; sometimes they get restructured like FBR did this year. But I don't see a turnover rate that's any different than it's been in years past when we had a good number come up, notwithstanding the bad economy, which I think speaks a lot to the value of the brand and the attractiveness of the product from a television and charity standpoint.

Will Tiger scandal hurt the PGA Tour's image with corporate America?

Well, like I just said for the last 15 minutes, we've written a ton of business here in the last two weeks. I don't see corporate America backing away from golf over Tiger's issues, and I do think at the end of the day after all the media scrutiny, if he can successfully deal with those issues and come back and play golf that that will be a positive thing. I think there is a distinction between a player having personal issues that because of the scrutiny of that player get a lot of media attention is a very different thing than a pattern of activity that is distasteful across the TOUR.

Has Accenture approached the Tour about changing sponsorship terms for the Match Play since the Tiger story broke:

No, they have not. I don't anticipate that they will. I think that would fly in the face of what I've just described as a fairly strong trend in us accelerating the long-term commitments of our current sponsors and bringing new sponsors to the TOUR. Individual companies make individual marketing decisions, whether it relates to Tiger or anything else, for a range of reasons. I don't anticipate difficulties in that area whatsoever.