USGA: Out with ads, in with action

EDMOND, OK - JULY 12: A USGA flag is seen during the third round of the 2014 U.S. Senior Open Championship at Oak Tree National on July 12, 2014 in Edmond, Oklahoma. (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images). Scott Halleran/Getty Images

USGA: Out with ads, in with action

Golf on TV

USGA: Out with ads, in with action

Get ready for non-stop action during the U.S. Golf Association’s 2018 championships.

There will be no commercial interruptions during seven of the eight USGA championships that will air on Fox Sports or FS1, thanks to an expanded commitment from Rolex, a USGA corporate partner. Those tournaments include the U.S. Women’s Open, U.S. Senior Open and the U.S. Amateur.

The season will be branded the USGA Championship Season on Fox Presented by Rolex, according to Sarah Hirshland, the USGA’s senior managing director, business affairs.

“You will see Rolex’s brand and ideally you’ll see sponsored features from other corporate partners and things of that nature,” Hirshland said. “What you will not see is any traditional 30-second-style commercial advertising inventory.”

The U.S. Open will be the only USGA championship with traditional advertising, which Hirshland said will be “consistent with what you would have seen in past years.” Rolex, however, will present the final hour of the Open with no commercial interruption.

“For the viewer, this is a great thing,” Mark Loomis, executive producer of Fox’s live golf coverage, said of the initiative.

Rolex will sponsor “vignettes and features that are historical stories, great moments in USGA championship history,” Hirshland said. Some 20 to 30 vignettes will be shown, and they will last anywhere from 30 to 90 seconds and include an opening billboard or closing graphic noting that they are presented by Rolex. Hirshland said there will be “audio mentions and visual graphics” noting Rolex’s sponsorship, but there will not be a permanent Rolex watermark on the screen.

The Rolex relationship also includes what Hirshland described as a “digital encyclopedia of the U.S. Open” that will be streamed live on

This is not a short-term test project. Hirshland said Rolex has made a 10-year commitment to this program as part of its corporate-sponsorship renewal with the USGA. Because of Rolex’s global support of golf, Hirshland predicted there will be “extensions of this (program) flowing through many of our international broadcast partners as well.”

“It’s a huge commitment from Rolex and it’s a significant commitment from Fox as well,” she said.

The USGA’s other corporate partners will have the opportunity to create sponsored features during Fox’s live coverage for such things as shot-tracing technology, though no details were available on those plans.

This move reflects a broader trend to reduce traditional advertising in sports and prime-time programming. Fox has been particularly aggressive on this front, introducing such things as six-second ads dropped into live coverage of football and baseball. Fox executives also told advertisers earlier this month that their goal is to reduce advertising to two minutes per hour by 2020 on the network and cable channels.

While removing ads from USGA coverage undoubtedly will appeal to viewers, it will require additional planning by the Fox crew. A television production truck is an intense place during live tournament coverage, and that intensity will only be ratcheted up when the crew is grinding through five hours or more of commercial-free coverage at, say, the U.S. Senior Open. Loomis already is thinking about how to give some of his staff short breaks to keep them sharp.

Loomis said the biggest impact might come during weekends at the match-play championships, such as the U.S. Amateur. With only one or two matches on the course, commercial breaks have filled time as players are walking to their balls.

“When we don’t have other golf shots to go to, I think we’re going to have to put some work into what we’re going to do,” Loomis said.


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