Web.com's deal comes with potential Tour business

Bill Calfee, president of the Web.com Tour. (file photo)

Bill Calfee, president of the Web.com Tour. (file photo)

Change often is embraced reluctantly. Just ask sports fans who have witnessed their favorite stadiums or events adopt the name of the latest sponsor du jour.

Such hesitancy, if not disdain, might follow in the wake of the PGA Tour’s recent announcement that its developmental circuit now will be dubbed the Web.com Tour. The little-known Internet services and online marketing company based in Jacksonville, Fla., replaced Nationwide Insurance as the umbrella sponsor June 27. The 10-year agreement took effect immediately.

But adding Web.com to the marquee is a “win-win” for the PGA Tour and the company, according to sponsorship experts. And as far as the fans are concerned, marketers say, they’ll get over it. Indeed, fans begrudgingly have accepted sponsorship as an integral part of modern sports business. Case in point: Since its founding in 1990, the Tour’s developmental circuit has featured five umbrella sponsors – Ben Hogan, Nike, Buy.com, Nationwide and Web.com – without suffering permanent backlash.

“Fans know that sponsorship is important to keeping any sporting event vibrant and healthy,” said Richard Burton, the David B. Falk Professor of Sport Management at Syracuse University. “Give the PGA Tour credit that they’ve been able to consistently keep this tour sponsored and have thus helped develop the next generation of pros.”

Burton dismisses the notion that the PGA Tour’s “blue-chip” stature might be diminished by partnering with an upstart entity such as Web.com. Helping build the company’s profile, rather, would only enhance the Tour’s reputation as an effective sponsorship vehicle.

“The financial markets these days are dominated by companies and brands that didn’t exist 25 years ago,” Burton said. “Imagine if this PGA Tour sponsor, seeking early awareness for its brand, had been Apple, Microsoft, Google, Amazon or Facebook back at the beginning of their run to excellence. There’s no guarantee that Web.com will make it, but this sponsorship is at the front end of their plan to become a household name.”

Exposure for Web.com will be plentiful, including media coverage and international television, promotion at tournament sites and the Tour’s various marketing assets. But achieving greater consumer awareness, as important as it is, may not even be Web.com’s top priority. The PGA Tour’s circuits, including the Champions Tour, have been valued most for creating business-to-business opportunities.

“It offers us deep, local exposure in the 27 markets where Web.com Tour events are currently staged as well as access to other markets where the PGA Tour and the Champions Tour have forged strong ties,” said David L. Brown, Web.com’s chairman, president and CEO. “We intend to actively engage in those communities and use our expertise to help local businesses and organizations succeed online.”

Financial terms of the sponsorship deal were not disclosed. But it appears Web.com will be able to offset its initial investment by earning new business with the Tour’s various partners – even its players. As part of its agreement, Web.com will make its services, such as website development and online marketing, available to tournament organizers and their charities.

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