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Turns out Tiger Woods and Padraig Harrington weren’t the only ones on the clock last week at the Bridgestone Invitational. In a sense so was the title sponsor of the event. Given the ways of the economy, it couldn’t be considered a gimme that the tire company would continue to fund the prestigious event. However, after Tiger Woods marked the 70th time he came out on top in his still young career, Bridgestone announced it will maintain its relationship with golf. “I'm very excited to announce that we've reached an agreement in principle with the PGA Tour for a four year extension that will keep the Bridgestone Invitational here at Firestone Country Club through 2014,” said Mark Emkes, Bridgestone Americas Incorporated', chairman, CEO and president, “Bottom line, we're thrilled. This is a world-class event that we think it's wonderful for the Akron community. It brings incredible international exposure for our Bridgestone and Firestone brands. And even though times are tough, it's important that we continue investing in our two brands. So the Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club is a perfect example of a strategic investment to our brands that will show great returns well into the future.”
PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem was coy regarding the financial details of the renewal agreement. “We announce prize money on an annual basis,” he began. “We'll continue to do that. But I'll just say that generally our plan -- as I've said many times publicly, our prize money is not going to grow the next three or four or five years at the same rate of increase that it has in the past five years. It is going to continue to grow at some level, and this agreement is consistent with that.”
Emkes explained the reasons behind continuing the partnership with the Tour and in golf. “We've had to be, like all companies, very lean and strategic during this economic downturn, and there's been some things we've cut out,” he said. “You know, we never sacrifice safety or quality, but everything else was fair game. But stuff that has been successful like the Bridgestone Invitational, working with a class organization like the PGA, our association with the NFL, with the NHL, those things have worked for us. So even in a down economy, we still need to sell Bridgestone golf balls, Bridgestone clubs, Bridgestone tires, Firestone tires, and we think that this venue is just an excellent chance not only to show our brands here in the United States, but this is an international stage, so this is a wonderful opportunity, and it has proven to be successful for us,” he continued. The renewal deal was in some ways set in motion based on last year, Enkes said. “The PGA was very intelligent. Last year I was here with the chairman from Japan and they put us on golf carts and they scooted us around and showed us all the international feeds. They said this feed here goes to Japan, this one goes to South America, Argentina, Mexico, this one to Europe, this one to India. And so when you see that it's pretty impressive. You realize just how big the exposure is here with the PGA and the WGC. So that was a strong selling point. They're very good at marketing.”
It might be a stretch to say for the event, it was Bridgestone or nothing, a catch phrase the company has used in its marketing. But its safe to say the PGA Tour is more than happy to keep things status quo for this event. “This has been a very special relationship,” said Finchem. “We're very pleased.”