It was announced today that Verizon is ending its financial backing of the Heritage tournament in Hilton Head, South Carolina, when their contract expires in 2010. Last week Tim Finchem hinted at the possibility of the Tour losing a few (more) title sponsors:
[The sponsors] don’t want to bring it to a head because they don’t want the answer to be no, so they like to wait, things get better, revenues get better, their budgets change. ‘10 will be an interesting year on that front. But we’ve been working hard on replacement possibilities, and as I say, I think that we’re going to be in good shape.
So, no big surprise to hear about Verizon. The economy sucks and the golf industry has been hit hard (but somehow some sponsors can cough up $10 million bonuses). Though it appears there are signs of recovery (I mean, can it get much worse?), it’s understandable companies need to be careful with structuring their budgets. Like in the case of Buick, it wasn’t shocking when they regretfully pulled out of their sponsorship — it’s tough to justify spending $8 million-$10 million on a golf tournament while GM has been making major job cutbacks. And, they replaced that Tour stop with another event at Greenbrier.
The situation with Verizon is obviously rather different, but it sounds like they didn’t feel like they were benefiting as much as they would have liked from a business perspective. I wonder if it has anything to do with the greater level of involvement AT&T has with the PGA. But I don’t know enough to speak to it.
More likely, it’s just a product of the economic climate and Verizon seeing other opportunities in the market that would better accommodate their goals.
Clearly this news is no cause for panic. The Tour won’t have trouble finding a replacement before 2011. Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised if they already have one lined up. Like Finchem said — or thinks — they’re in good shape. Best way to put it in perspective is compare it to the LPGA’s battle to secure sponsors. Unfortunately for the women, the men have it much easier (though I doubt they realize how lucky they are).