BrandDunk

Branding the World of Sports

Mutiny in the LPGA?

Posted by ZA on July 9, 2009

I thought ships were the only place where mutiny occurred.  Turns out the golf course and corporate offices of the LPGA are another place where mutiny is still an option.  That is because a group of top LPGA golfers has banded together to other throw their Commissioner, Carolyn Bivens.

Advertising Age has more on the story, but it because appears that these golfers feel Bivens is directly responsible for the loss of sponsors for key LPGA events.  There are more than a dozen female golfers attacking the LPGA Commish include top stars: Paula Creamer, Natalie Gulbis and Lorena Ochoa.  They are asking that Bivens “resign immediately” due to the loss of key sponsors.  Only 10 of 27 tournaments for 2010 have sponsors lined up at this point.

The AdAge article paints a picture of Bivens as someone who has a rocky tenure as Commissioner.  She has had some media missteps and driven a hard line with sponsors, which perhaps has led some of them to jump ship.  It also says that Bivens has not gotten along well with some of the LGPA tour’s biggest stars; presumably the same ladies who are now asking her to step down.  Those three items can be a recipe for disaster if you are running a professional sports league during these troubled economic times.

If this mutiny unfair to Commissioner Bivens?  Is the LPGA leadership being treated unfairly? No, the players have a right to demand top performance from their league executives.  The finances of the golfers are directly tied to the success of the league, more so in golf than in other team sports (e.g.- NFL, NBA).  If the Bivens cannot sell sponsorships, then the LPGA Board of Directors needs to find a leader who can.

Most companies have contracted their marketing budgets over the past 12 months, or at the very least gotten very careful with their spending.  But there are still a large pool of businesses which would be willing to spend money to promote their brand next to the top female golfers in the World.  Grocery chain Hy-Vee was a title sponsor for a televised triathlon this past weekend; they are a $7 billion company that could sponsor an LPGA tournament in the same way that Kroger, Safeway and CVS have done.  There are a variety of Houston-based corporations that could be signed up as title sponsor of the upcoming LPGA Tour Championship at the Houstonian Golf & Country Club.  Or the LPGA could approach large female owned corporations to back the all female golf tour.

In-short there are plenty of deals available to the LPGA, even in these challenging economic times.  They will not be easy to land, but the LPGA is in a position where it can be creative because it has so much open opportunities.  Plus LPGA golfers are willing to do their part to make sponsors happy; mingling with sponsors at events, showing up for parties hosted by them and doing whatever is necessary to keep them on-board.  By comparison can you imagine David Stern asking Rasheed Wallace to show up to an event hosted by an NBA sponsor?  It wouldn’t happen.

To me it just sounds like Carolyn Bivens is not the right person to led the LPGA.  And if that is right, then the golfers asking her to step down have the right idea in-mind.  My best to Bivens family, but perhaps parting ways is best for everyone involved.  She’s lost the backing of her biggest stars, the sponsors are leaving in droves – best for her to get out now (somewhat voluntarily) before things really get ugly.

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