Note the lede in the Masters.org press release...Bobby Jones just heaved a chair across the room, and not because he's been watching ESPN's golf coverage. No, because officially arriving in Augusta is the fantasy that corporate involvement will somehow "grow the game." And it's neatly disguised with MBASpeak.
Billy Payne, Chairman of Augusta National Golf Club and the Masters Tournament, announced today three new strategic relationships as part of a worldwide initiative to utilize the Masters brand to further promote the game of golf.
Yes, if Cliff were here today, he would be looking for ways to platform this underutilized brand in order to build international equity and leveragable brand dynamics.
Payne announced that the Masters’ new cable affiliate for the Thursday and Friday telecast will be ESPN. He added that the Tournament would also be partnering with a small number of prominent international companies to support the telecast and golf development programs outside of the United States. The first two to be announced are Mercedes-Benz and Rolex.
In addition to its significant impact domestically, ESPN’s global reach extends to 194 countries including Europe, Latin America, Canada and parts of Asia, the Middle East and Africa. A Spanish-language telecast of the first two rounds of the Tournament will also be presented in the US on ESPN Deportes.
“With the worldwide reach of ESPN, and their demonstrated leadership in new media, we think ESPN is uniquely positioned to showcase the Masters and golf to new audiences,” Payne said.
Maybe deliver some stronger numbers in the male 18-34 demo? Afterall, the Masters is in trouble financially you know! And let's be honest, underexposed too.
“For sports fans, the Masters represents a most hallowed rite of spring with its rich tradition and indelible imagery,” said ESPN President George Bodenheimer. “We are honored by the opportunity to work with the Tournament to help it achieve its goal of growing the game of golf around the world.”
Television times remain the same as 2007 with live coverage slated from 4:00-7:00 p.m. Thursday and Friday and a rebroadcast from 8:00-11:00 p.m. each evening.
Payne added: “Bob Jones once wrote, ‘. . . I think it can be said that the tournament has performed some service to competitive golf . . . .’ Cliff Roberts said that, ‘The Masters is operated for the single purpose of benefiting the game itself.’ We feel it is imperative to continue the legacy of our two founders.”
Now about that second cut...oh, sorry, it's time for my favorite portion of the press release. The empty quote pile on:
“We are honored and delighted to be partnering with Augusta National Golf Club and the Masters Tournament, helping bring the game of golf to new audiences in new countries all around the world,” said Dr. Dieter Zetsche, Chairman of the Board of Management, Daimler AG. “As the inventor of the automobile we understand the importance of heritage and the role it can play in growing your future.”Yes, that's right, Mercedes invented the car and now it's going to grow the game of golf. I certainly can see the connection.
"The Masters is one of the most popular and revered events globally, and we are proud of our new international association," said Patrick Heiniger, President and CEO of Rolex. "The Masters stands for tradition and innovation and is universally respected. We look forward to working with the Tournament in many activities."
“We think our new worldwide initiative is important,” Payne said. “The other major golf organizations have rightly identified a need to accelerate the growth of golf throughout the world. We will utilize the goodwill of the Masters and our other resources in support of these bodies and programs. We are pleased that CBS, ESPN and our present television sponsors, AT&T, ExxonMobil and IBM, as well as these new international partners and our international broadcasters will help us with this program that will have a particular focus on young people.
“This new international initiative compliments our longstanding support of golf domestically as evidenced by our contributions of over $32 million dollars the last 10 years to organizations including golf’s ruling bodies, The First Tee, Augusta’s Community Foundation for the CSRA and the Tiger Woods Foundation,” said Payne.
Well there is good news. On ESPN.com they report that Mike Tirico will be the Thursday-Friday host. I know, you were hoping for Berman.
Did anyone else find it odd that there was no mention of USA Network and the club's 25-year relationship ending? There was this generic best wishes from Dick Ebersol at MSNBC.com.