Umbrellas up: 3 tours seek sponsors

Jason Kokrak

With the 2011 golf season coming to an end, the business of 2012 is under way.

Three professional tours are looking for umbrella sponsors. The Nationwide Tour is fully sponsored through 2012, but the Columbus, Ohio-based insurance company decided to opt out after 2012 when it recently took on the six-year presenting sponsorship of its hometown Memorial Tournament on the PGA Tour.

The Nationwide Tour started in 1990 as the Ben Hogan Tour after then-PGA Tour commissioner Deane Beman convinced the late Ben Hogan and his equipment company's officials of the benefits of sponsoring the developmental tour.

Nike eventually picked it up for seven years before fledging Internet company Buy.com assumed sponsorship. In 2003, Nationwide took over.

Now the PGA Tour is looking for the fifth sponsor at a time when it also has to find an umbrella sponsor for the PGA Tour Latinoamérica, which was announced in October and will begin play in the fall. The tour will consist of 11 events in seven countries from September to December in its inaugural year.

Also, the former NGA/Hooters Tour is seeking sponsorship. The restaurant chain was purchased recently and had indicated that the sponsorship no longer matched up with its marketing goals.

According to sources, sponsorship of the NGA Tour is relatively small at approximately $600,000 annually. The tour, in operation since 1988, operates primarily in the Southeast and has had great success in developing players for the next levels of professional golf.

The new PGA Tour Latinoamérica also seems like a good fit for many companies looking to develop a brand in Latin and South America. Purses will be a minimum of $100,000 per event, so the cost of entry would be relatively low. With tournament sites in some of South America's major cities, a company could gain exceptional exposure via the PGA Tour to emerging markets.

Beman’s argument to Hogan back in 1990 may still ring true and an equipment company may take on the sponsorship, which if you think about it make perfect sense, particularly with the Olympics in Rio in four plus years and golf make it first appearance since the turn of last century.

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