Economy Leaves Sporting Events Scrambling For Corporate Sponsors

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On the face of it, corporate sponsorship of a prestigious golf event is a smart marketing move as it's a cost-effective way to get a company's name out in the media. But tough economic times are causing companies to pull the plug on sponsorships, leaving event organizers scrambling to find last-minute replacements.

The PGA Tour has had to find new sponsors for 18 of its 48 events this year. One of the most stable sponsors of golf tournaments has been the accounting profession. In the past, golf organizers could count on large advertising contracts with big accounting firms, including Arthur Andersen and KPMG. But not now. Andersen's gone and the remaining firms aren't spending the money the way they once did.

Accounting firms aren't the only ones cutting back. In April, Kemper Insurance withdrew its support of the Kemper Open, an event the company had been associated with since 1968 and sponsored since 1980. Kemper said financial problems have forced it to stop all its event sponsorship activity. Organizers are still hoping to find a major sponsor for the June event, which will have a $4.5 million purse. For now, the name has been changed to Capital Open.

The International golf tournament was also left without a title sponsor this spring after Qwest withdrew its financial backing. Qwest cited the poor economy and change in its leadership as contributing factors in the decision to end sponsorship of the Masters August event.

Not all problems with sponsorships are strictly economic. Last summer, the Augusta National Golf Club released from their contracts the three main sponsors of its Masters Tournament when the club became embroiled in a controversy over its all-male membership. Two of the sponsors — IBM and Coke — continued their association with the event this year, providing tournament scoring and soft drinks.

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