State Farm And Other Companies Reconsider LPGA Sponsorship

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

In a previous post on the LPGA and their English only rule, one of the questions that I posed was this:

...while I get the fact that the LPGA is "saying" this is for marketing/sponsorship purposes more so than anything else, I'm curious to know then - really curious - what sponsors, or sponsor liaisons, have told the LPGA that they won't sponsor an LPGA event, or have anything to do with the LPGA, if the LPGA's players can't make victory speeches, or talk about what they're going to do on their holiday vacation at a party?

If this is supposedly driven by American marketing reasons, it's a fair question to ask (and one that I haven't seen any information on yet).
As you can probably tell from the post headline we have an answer from an article that was written in Advertising Age:

Saying it was "flabbergasted" by the Ladies Professional Golf Association's new policy requiring "effective communication in English on the part of all of our Tour members," State Farm is urging the group to reconsider -- or insurer may reconsider its sponsorship.

"It's something we are dumfounded by," said Kip Biggs, media-relations specialist at the insurer, which is a general sponsor of the league as well as of the State Farm Classic Tournament in Springfield, Ill. "We don't understand this and don't know why they have done it, and we have strongly encouraged them to take another look at this." [...]

The LPGA claims that the language barrier facing a number of its players is causing problems on many fronts, including the players' dealings with the media as well as the league's sponsors and the customers of those sponsors.

Mr. Biggs, however, said State Farm was unaware that the LPGA was contemplating any such policy.
While not quite as direct as State Farm (who deserves a lot of recognition for coming out on this), other companies are getting into the mix as well and letting the LPGA know that they're under the microscope:

State Farm isn't the only sponsor taking note. David Peikin, senior director-corporate communications at Choice Hotels International, said, "We have a great deal of interest in the intentions of the LPGA on this subject. Based on our understanding, this policy is currently under review by the LPGA, and a final decision and any related details will be determined over the next four months. Until that time, we will be closely monitoring LPGA news and announcements."
One other noteable quote:

Ann Wool, senior VP-director at Ketchum Sports network, said it was a mistake for the LPGA not to talk to its sponsors before announcing the policy. "When making a major policy decision it's always wise to notify your sponsors," Ms. Wool said. "I can only speculate that [the LPGA] didn't think this was going to be such a controversial issue, otherwise they probably would have. It was probably a bad move not to notify their sponsors."
So again, while the LPGA claims this was mainly for sponsorship reasons, the bottom line is that not only didn't sponsors have anything to do with this policy, but now that they've found out about it - they don't even agree with it.

I'm hoping that over the next few months more and more sponsors will be doing what State Farm and Choice Hotels International are doing - putting pressure on the LPGA to rescind this completely inane policy.