Automakers in the mix again for Tour sponsorship

First, there was no Chrysler, let alone any title sponsor, at the Bob Hope Classic. This week we say good-bye to what formerly was known as the Buick Invitational. (But the event has resurfaced as the Farmers Insurance Open.)

But could it be possible that automakers – written off as possible sponsor candidates – are ready to team again with golf? There are at least two car manufacturers pursuing a deal to sponsor a PGA Tour event, Golfweek has learned.

The PGA Tour’s chief marketing officer, Tom Wade, declined to comment.

But two sources say Hyundai Motors considered sponsoring the San Diego tournament, but was unable to hammer out a deal in time. Hyundai also has considered becoming the official car of the PGA Tour, a marketing opportunity vacated by Buick last year. (It’s a move that would help Hyundai keep pace with its Korean competitor, Kia, which is the official car of the NBA.)

It’s also not farfetched for Ford Motors to renew ties with the Tour. The company avoided federal bailout last year and appears to be turning the corner. Plus, Alan Mullaly, Ford’s president and CEO, is an avid golfer. During better times, the automaker sponsored the Ford Senior Players Championship, the Ford Championship at Doral Resort and also endorsed Phil Mickelson.

In their heyday, automakers supported the Tour more than any other industry. Just seven years ago, 11 Tour events were sponsored by automotive companies. The number of automakers that make the PGA Tour a cornerstone of their marketing efforts has plummeted to two; both are imports (Honda and BMW).

Golf and autos have been a good match. Tournament sponsorship works well with car dealers. On a local level, they can use its pro-am spots to drum up business. They can leverage other benefits as well, such as on-site product displays and tournament hospitality.

In short, it makes good business sense. That’s why some insiders think Hyundai may be the next new sponsor the Tour lands – and just, maybe, Ford might return, too.

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