Saturday, March 08, 2008

Better Field at Colonial Starts with Mickelson

The Colonial - now the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial - has seen its field strength dissipate over the past decade, a thinning that actually dates to the death of Ben Hogan. And Colonial Country Club - Hogan's Alley - has turned off some PGA Tour players, too. While Colonial is one of America's classic courses, it's not a PGA Tour-favorite anymore. It's short by Tour standards and demands precision off the tee.

Phil Mickelson is one player who, in the past, has noted that Colonial is a course that's not advantageous to big bombers such as himself.

So how does Colonial - which had one Top 10 player in its field in 2007 - go about bettering its field and, therefore, its TV ratings? Well, the tournament sponsor came up with a great idea: Start by targeting Phil Mickelson. Crowne Plaza did just that, wooing Mickelson with an endorsement deal and a new set of television commercials built around Mickelson, like their previous commercials had been built around David Feherty.

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram tells the story:

But the folks at Crowne Plaza, who serve as title sponsor of Fort Worth’s annual PGA Tour event, seek more for their millions than a few memorable one-liners from their on-air talent during golf telecasts. They want big TV ratings to enhance their brand in a global marketplace.

That didn’t happen during last year’s Colonial. Weeklong rains prompted endless weather delays, forcing networks to air ratings-killing file footage instead of showing live golf. A field that included only one of the world’s top 10 golfers, Jim Furyk, did not help, either.

But instead of dwelling on what did not work, the Crowne Plaza folks devised ways — in concert with Colonial Country Club officials — to enhance the event. The results, thus far, have been encouraging.

By building this year’s marketing campaign around Phil Mickelson, the No. 2 player in the world golf rankings, the Crowne Plaza folks opened the door for Lefty’s return to Fort Worth. As things stand, he’ll be joined during the May 22-25 tournament by three other top-10 golfers (Furyk, K.J. Choi and defending champ Rory Sabbatini, a Fort Worth resident).

Don’t be surprised if Steve Stricker, the No. 4 player in the world rankings, joins the list of confirmed competitors in the near future. All of that brightens the outlook of Kevin Kowalski, Crowne Plaza’s senior vice president for worldwide brand management.

Read the full article.

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