CSM strengthens women's sport credentials with LPGA sponsorship role
By Simon Ward
CSM Sport & Entertainment has secured another prominent commission in women’s sport after the UK-based international agency was appointed by the LPGA as the sponsorship sales agency of record of the top golf tour.
Under the agreement announced today, CSM will help the USA-based LPGA to “identify, develop and secure commercial partnerships across entitlement and official marketing partnership opportunities.”
The move comes in the same week that CSM was named as the strategic partner and exclusive sponsorship agency of European rugby union’s Women’s Six Nations, and also complements the tie-up with women’s tennis’ WTA unveiled in February.
The agency sees considerable upside in women’s sport given that it calculates that only 7 per cent of corporate sponsorship revenue is presently invested in such properties.
The LPGA Tour has expanded internationally in recent years, and annually features more than 30 events in more than a dozen countries. There is television coverage in 170 markets, with partners including Golf Channel and NBC in USA.
This year’s schedule has been heavily disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic although seven events have been held since the tour resumed in late July, with seven remaining, including two majors - the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship and US Women’s Open - and the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship. However, two Asian events have had to be cancelled because of travel restrictions.
Kelly Hyne, the chief sales officer of the LPGA, said today: “We offer an 'always on' platform for leveraging and making an impact through women’s golf at all levels. Our organisation is uniquely rooted in diversity, equity and inclusion, and our corporate partners have the opportunity to play a critical role in advancing opportunities for women both on and off the course.
“Having effectively managed the return to play in Covid times, we’re excited to now welcome CSM to the team to help us find likeminded partners that can connect with the LPGA's ecosystem of fans and members to deliver them value.”
Ross Meltzer, president of properties for CSM North America, added: “We’re thrilled to be starting this journey with the LPGA. Partners will benefit from brand integrations that align their business objectives with the global, competitive, well respected and highly engaged experiences LPGA delivers on and off the course.”
Meanwhile, the Ladies European Tour has this week added two tournaments in Saudi Arabia to its 2020 schedule, which will provide lucrative playing opportunities for the players, but have come in for criticism from human rights campaign group Amnesty International.
The Royal Greens Golf Club in King Abdullah Economic City will host the $1 million Aramco Saudi Ladies International presented by PIF on 12 to 15 November and the $500,000 Saudi Ladies Team International on 17 to 19 November.
The new events, to be held in a biosecure environment given concerns over coronavirus, have been hailed by the LET as “a landmark moment for women’s sport in the kingdom.”
However, they will also be a source of controversy given Saudi Arabia’s human rights record.
The country has increasingly looked to sport to boost its image on the international stage, and has already staged the Saudi International powered by SoftBank Investment Advisers on the men’s European Tour in 2019 and 2020.
The Saudi Ladies International will have the third highest prize fund of any LET event in a season disrupted by Covid-19, behind only the British and Scottish Opens, while the team event will feature amateur players alongside the professionals.
Alexandra Armas, the chief executive of the tour, said: “We are extremely excited to be part of history in bringing the first-ever professional women’s golf event to Saudi Arabia and we are thankful to their commitment to deliver not one but two tournaments, in what has been a difficult year for golf.
“We are always looking to grow the game in new markets and add to our schedule and we are confident that the Saudi Ladies International and the Saudi Ladies Team International will be a fantastic experience for our players.”
However, Kate Allen, the director of Amnesty International UK, claims that the events are not representative of how women are customarily treated in the kingdom.
She told the UK’s Guardian newspaper: “With leading Saudi women’s rights activists currently languishing behind bars, there’s an unmistakable irony to the spectacle of Saudi Arabia throwing open its heavily-watered greens to the world’s leading women golfers like this. Under the Crown Prince, Saudi Arabia has embarked on a major sportswashing drive – attempting to use the glamour and prestige of big-money sporting events as a PR tool to distract from its abysmal human rights record.”
Allen added: “Every golfer considering whether to compete in Saudi Arabia ought to take a proper look at the human rights situation in the country and be prepared to speak out.”Sportcal