Title sponsor waiting on TV ratings to assess Colonial experience

05/26/2014 7:24 PM

05/26/2014 7:30 PM

Officials at the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial added another brand name to their Wall of Champions with Sunday’s playoff triumph by Adam Scott, the No. 1 player in the world golf rankings.

Scott, 33, will have his name inscribed in granite beside the first tee when competitors convene for the 2015 Colonial. It will be there forever.

But how much longer will the Crowne Plaza name be affixed to Fort Worth’s annual PGA Tour stop?

That question will be answered in September, said Gina LaBarre, vice-president of Crowne Plaza brand management. During her visit to Fort Worth, which concluded with LaBarre handing the ceremonial winner’s check to Scott on the 18th green, she stressed the need to maximize exposure for the brand in exchange for extending Crowne Plaza’s contract as title sponsor beyond the 2015 event.

She also said television ratings for the 2014 tournament, which will not be available until Tuesday because of the holiday weekend, will be significant in deliberations by corporate executives.

“It’s all going to be in the ratings because, really, that’s what it’s about at the end of the day,” LaBarre said. “So I won’t know at the end of this week what’s going to happen. We’ve got to see what we do from a ratings perspective … For us, it’s about how do we get more national exposure for the brand.”

LaBarre made her comments before the identity of Sunday’s winner was known. Having Scott, an elite golfer in terms of rankings and Q-ratings, as the centerpiece of a marketing campaign for the 2015 Colonial tournament projects as a huge coup for folks who favor a contract extension with Crowne Plaza.

Short of having Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson as your defending champion, a tour event can do no better in creating pre-tournament buzz than by promoting a title defense by Scott. A case could be made that Scott, the 2013 Masters champion and poster boy for handsome Aussie surfer/golfer, could be the world’s most marketable player when the 2015 Colonial is contested, if he remains near the top spot of the world rankings while Woods (injured) and Mickelson (44 in June) continue to plummet.

In his victory speech to Colonial fans, Scott made a verbal pledge to defend his title and expressed a fresh affinity for Fort Worth’s venerable event that just celebrated its 68th anniversary.

“It’s truly a special place. I’m really honored to win here and be on that Wall of Champions,” Scott said. “Coming back will be a sweet feeling to look at my name up on that wall. It’s a pleasure to play here and I look forward to coming back.”

Asked if he would be more inclined to include Colonial in future schedules, now that he is part of tournament lore, Scott said: “Absolutely. This is a golf course steeped in history of the game, and certainly with Ben Hogan. That’s a nice feeling for everyone involved in this event. They’re involved in a part of golf history, really. Colonial is a historic event. It makes it that little bit more special with the history here to be able to call myself a champion.”

Unlike Woods and Mickelson, whose beefs about Colonial’s short, demanding course have been well-documented, Scott spent Sunday saying all the things a title sponsor would want to hear the No. 1 player in the world rankings say about the venue for their event. He also pledged to defend his title in 2015, when Scott might still be ranked atop the world rankings as the defending champion.

But Colonial’s TV ratings have not been buzz-worthy since 2011, when CBS’ overnight ratings for the final round drew a 2.1 share, an increase of 110 percent from the 2010 final-round ratings. A CBS spokeswoman said the 2014 overnight numbers will be available Tuesday. All signs suggest Sunday’s epic Scott-Dufner playoff duel should offer a significant spike over the 2013 figures.

Will the numbers be enough to sway folks at Crowne Plaza? LaBarre said it is too early in the deliberations, with too many other variables in the mix, to know which way executives are leaning today.

“We will have to decide by the end of September,” LaBarre said. “We’ll do the due diligence when we get back and we also have to look at it from a development standpoint because we use this to entertain our owners. So what has this done for us to drive more deals, more hotels, across all [hotel chain] brands? Not just Crowne Plaza. Trying to quantify that, as well, is always a challenge.

“So we’ll look at the whole entire package and determine what is the right future for us, where this event is concerned. This is where we put the lion’s share of our marketing is right here, though golf. So we have to get as much exposure as we can for the brand.”

A victory by Scott, without question, generated more global exposure for Fort Worth’s tour stop than any Sunday triumph since “Mickelson’s Miracle” on the 72nd hole carried Lefty to a title in 2008. Whether that is enough buzz to bring the folks at Crowne Plaza back to Fort Worth after 2015 remains to be seen.

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