Dottie Pepper: LPGA Tour needs to adjust its business model
Last week the LPGA announced an "organizational realignment." In plain English, it streamlined and reorganized. Caught in the crossfire was COO Chris Higgs, which means there's only one member of senior management left from the pre-Carolyn Bivens era. That could be problematic because, to me, the only way for the LPGA (and golf in general) to survive the economic crisis is to get back to what it does best offer sponsors hands-on involvement and support, provide a wonderful vehicle for companies to advertise their products and give charities a chance to do their work.
The hard-line business practices the LPGA has adopted in the last few years need to be softened. It's time to back off the inflexible escalation of rights fees by granting struggling tournaments some relief from the strict letter of contractual purse increases. This would make contract renewals a much more pleasant (and likely) experience. It also would send a message that the tour is willing to work with sponsors who indicate they want out before their contracts are fulfilled.
The LPGA players are a tremendous asset when it comes to drumming up new business and trying to save sponsor relationships. Paula Creamer, for example, called ADT when it was announced that the company would no longer sponsor the year-ending tour championship. She did it because she had a personal connection with company executives and wanted to do whatever she could do to save the business relationship. The tour needs to use players in this manner and be thankful for their commitment.
And while we're on a roll, how about losing the cryptic jargon. For example, the LPGA's announcement said that it hoped to create "economic empowerment opportunities" and "to establish executional excellence as standard." How about "provide our members with as many business opportunities as possible" and "do the very best job we can"? Putting a human touch on the sport starts with the way you talk about it. Next year, 2010, promises to be the hardest ever for the LPGA to assemble a schedule and a television deal, but it won't be impossible if there's a major attitude adjustment to go with the new strategic business plan.
Dottie Pepper a 17-year LPGA vet and analyst for NBC and Golf Channel, welcomes letters at firstname.lastname@example.org. .