The Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial will need a new title sponsor at the conclusion of this year’s event, May 18-24 in Fort Worth.
Gina LaBarre, vice president of Crowne Plaza brand management, confirmed Monday that the company would not extend its contract to remain as title sponsor of Fort Worth’s annual PGA Tour stop after the existing agreement expires with the 2015 tournament. Crowne Plaza has sponsored the event since 2007, the longest stretch in tournament history.
“This is our last year, but it’s been a great run for us. We’ll miss it,” LaBarre said during an exclusive interview with the Star-Telegram. “We’re just kind of evolving our marketing strategy, and with that is going to come a new marketing plan.”
Colonial officials have been aware of Crowne Plaza’s intentions long enough that talks are ongoing with replacement title sponsors. Bobby Patton, Colonial tournament chairman, said PGA Tour officials are helping in the search process and club officials are “confident that ... there’s not going to be any lapse of title sponsorship with this golf tournament.”
Although financial terms are not disclosed, title sponsors at PGA Tour events typically pay an amount that would cover the cost of the purse. Colonial’s purse this year is $6.5 million.
Patton did not rule out the possibility that a new title sponsor could be presented during tournament week. That was the case when Bank of America was announced as the replacement for MasterCard, the departing sponsor, during the final round of the 2001 tournament.
“That would be ideal,” Patton said. “I would think a new title sponsor would want to leverage their commitment to this tournament during tournament week.”
Representatives from both sides characterized the departure as amicable. At the conclusion of last year’s event, LaBarre indicated that Colonial’s 2014 television ratings would be pivotal in discussions about an extension.
But CBS’ final-round ratings at Colonial were down by 12 percent from 2013, despite a playoff victory by Adam Scott, the No. 1 player in the World Golf Rankings at the time. The final-round telecast garnered a 1.5 rating with a 4 share. CBS’ weekend ratings were the tournament’s lowest since 2010.
“That blew my mind,” LaBarre said of the 2014 ratings. “We were so disappointed by that. It was a great finish.”
Crowne Plaza’s nine-year run as Colonial title sponsor will also be finished. Chuck Scherer, Colonial club president, said tournament officials will miss the relationship but “understand business decisions are made every day.” He expressed optimism that the next sponsor will surface sooner than later.
“I think a replacement sponsor is very much on the horizon,” Scherer said. “It’s nothing we can announce, obviously. But this is a very sought-after event. It’s going to happen.”
A pair of two-time Colonial champs, Zach Johnson and Kenny Perry, joined past major champions Angel Cabrera and Louis Oosthuizen among the latest wave of Colonial commitments released Monday.
Other recent inclusions include Dallas resident Steven Bowditch, Jason Dufner, Harris English, Bill Haas, Pat Perez and Bo Van Pelt. Colonial commitments are not official until May 15.
Jimmy Burch, 817-390-7760
Colonial title sponsors
A look at the history of title sponsors at Fort Worth’s annual PGA Tour event:
2007-2015: Crowne Plaza
2002-2006: Bank of America
1995: No title sponsor
1989-94: Southwestern Bell