Morgan Stanley may exit as Tour sponsor

Morgan Stanley could be on the way out as a PGA Tour sponsor, according to a report in The Columbus Dispatch.

The investment bank has been the principal sponsor of The Memorial for the past seven years.

“We’re going to spend the summer trying to (discuss a renewal) with Morgan Stanley, and if they’re not (interested), then we’ll look to ensure we have (another) relationship in place sometime in the fall,” Dan Sullivan, Memorial’s tournament director, told The Columbus Dispatch. The newspaper was unsuccessful in obtaining a response from Morgan Stanley.

Count Tour player Joe Ogilvie among those who don’t see the company renewing.

“Quite frankly, they can’t sponsor the Memorial Tournament anymore,” Ogilvie told The Columbus Dispatch. “The political environment in Washington is too strong, and our brand is not strong enough to give them cover.”

One of the primary reasons corporations sponsor golf tournaments is for an image boost. In the current economic environment, some still fear public backlash if their high-paid executives are seen strolling the fairways.

“I think it goes back to the amount of scrutiny sponsorship in general, not just golf sponsorship, came under last year during the economic crisis,” Sullivan said. “That has bled over into this year, where the economy is still doing a little bit of a roller coaster, so companies are taking care of their own business and may not necessarily be looking for new sponsorship opportunities.”

What is the Tour doing to overcome such challenges? Last year, the Tour went back to its roots and started beating the drum that through its philanthropic efforts, it generates more money for charity each year than all the other major sports associations combined.

But Ogilvie says the Tour needs more than a self-promotional plug.

“I’ve never seen a successful campaign that didn’t have third-party verification,” he said. “You need whoever you’re helping to actually say, ‘Look, the money that was raised at the Memorial Tournament helped to buy the piece of equipment that identified my kid’s cancer early and saved his life.’ That’s pretty powerful stuff, and I just don’t think that we get that across enough.”

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