PGA Tour has lost its sense…of branding

Sports marketing has been careening toward the cliff of excess for some time now (the wall-to-wall corporate sponsorship depicted in “Talladega Nights” was more verisimilitude than parody). But the recent revolving door of sponsor-named events in the US PGA golf tour is seriously damaging the history and heritage of US professional golf.

The latest example is something called the PODS Championship, held this past weekend in Florida. (PODS stands for Portable On-Demand Storage, in the form of a shipping container that this company drops in your front yard for you to fill with stuff, where it sits till your house project is done, much to the delight of your neighbors.)

The PODS Championship used to be the Chrysler Championship, and was held in the fall, not in early March. It’s always been in the Tampa area, but you wouldn’t know that from any of the communication surrounding the event. In fact, for all I knew (and I’m a golf fan!), this was a brand-spanking new event.

I could have said the same thing about the Wachovia Championship, the Fry’s Electronics Open, the Buick Classic, the Buick Open or the Buick Invitational, not to mention the late, great 84 Lumber Classic. (Some of these were events with history, and some were new. See if you can guess which!)

What ever happened to the Westchester Classic, the Western Open, or the Firestone Tournament of Champions? At least AT&T was smart enough to retain part of the historical name of its tournament (the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am).

Exclusive naming rights bring tens of millions of dollars yearly to the PGA Tour, helping purses to grow tenfold between 1986 and 2006, according to GolfWorld. But at some point they’ll be ruing the day the good old Greater Hartford Open became the Travelers.

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