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Thursday, February 27, 2014

Travelers extends title sponsorship 10 years through 2024 tournament

HARTFORD >> The discussions between Travelers and the PGA Tour went on for months, long past the original deadline of last September.

The discussions all along were about finalizing every last detail of Travelers extending its commitment as title sponsor of the Travelers Championship golf tournament. What was kept secret was for how long this commitment would be for.

That news became public knowledge Thursday morning. PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem announced a 10-year agreement between Travelers and the PGA Tour, keeping Travelers as title sponsor through the 2024 tournament.

“Having been in it for eight years, to make the commitment for 10 sends a great message for us,” Finchem said. “It’s a big help to us and Hartford. Now the tournament staff can work to grow it. For both reasons, it is a very powerful announcement today.”

Said Jay Fishman, Travelers Chairman and CEO: “I suspect sports sponsorships are moving to longer periods. It gives both sides the opportunity to invest, to plan, to think about it. ... We know what we got now, and to make the commitment to it, it’s not a hard thing to do.”

Finchem confirmed that only the AT&T Pebble Beach and the former SBS Championship (now called then Hyundai Tournament of Champions) are the only other two current PGA Tour events to have a 10-year commitment for title sponsorship. Andy Bessette, the executive vice president and chief administrative officer for Travelers for Travelers, said the deal was finalized on Monday.

“We are not going to take our franchise someplace else,” Bessette said. “We are committed to this place and to this tournament. Whether it be sponsors or fans, they don’t have to worry going to sleep that this event is going away.”

Bessette said the initial discussions were for a four-year extension, but as those discussions went on, so did the number of years.

Travelers first committed as title sponsor for a four-year deal beginning with the 2007 tournament, saving it from PGA Tour extinction. The second four-year deal was announced in February of 2009 that runs through this year’s tournament, which will be held June 16-22 at TPC River Highlands.

The Travelers Championship has always followed the U.S. Open in June. For the most part, those dates will remain.

“Before I first started, back in the mid-1980s, (the Travelers) had a July date and an early August date,” Finchem said. “It worked well from a crowd standpoint. But collectively, we like those dates in the early summer and we will try to stick with it. But we don’t contract dates, we can’t. We have to maintain some level of flexibility.”

With golf now being part of both the 2016 and 2020 Summer Olympics, Bessette indicated the tournament may need to move off those June dates for at least one of those years to accommodate the tournaments that may conflict with when the Olympics are actually held.

Bessette and Travelers tournament director Nathan Grube have already made trips to PGA Tour stops to recruit players for this year’s event, as recent as the Northern Trust Open two weeks ago. They did not tell players about the 10-year extension, but did field questions whether they were renewing as title sponsors.

“The PGA Tour appreciates our commitment enormously,” Fishman said. “They know us well enough to know its about the tournament. This is not an ego experience for us.”

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Future of Travelers Championship to be determined Thursday

Travelers Insurance has called a press conference for Thursday morning to discuss the future of its title sponsorship with the Travelers Championship golf tournament.

Travelers is entering the final year of four of its title sponsorship agreement with the tournament.

Travelers has been the title sponsor of the tournament since 2007. The first two agreements with the tour went for four years each.

All indications are Travelers is remaining on board. PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem is expected to be in attendance. So is Connecticut Governor Dannel P. Malloy. I don't imagine they would be in attendance if Travelers was ending is partnership with the tournament.

Travelers tournament director Nathan Grube had no comment when reached Wednesday afternoon. When asked for an update on the negotiation last month, Grube said, "Bottom line is we are really, really close."

The PGA Tour allowed Travelers to extend its window for negotiation beyond the initial time period, which was to be concluded by the end of last September.

Andy Bessette, the executive vice president and chief administrative officer for Travelers, said back in September that he wanted the deal in place by the end of the calendar year.

“I think (the word) negotiation is too strong. This is more like a partnership (with the PGA Tour),” Bessette said at the time. “Negotiation has the connotation of sitting across the table beating the daylights out of each other. It’s not like that.”

A big key to the recent negotiation, according to Bessette, was to keep its tournament the third week of June. Also of concern is the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, when golf will be an Olympic sport for the first time since 1904. Even though the Olympics itself won't conflict, how the players schedule around the Olympics might.