USGA adds RBS as fourth corporate sponsor

(AP) — The United States Golf Association announced a four-year deal Wednesday with the Royal Bank of Scotland, the fourth corporate partnership it has signed in 18 months after going 113 years without one.

“We were looking for real top companies that shared a cultural vision with the USGA and really understood the game of golf, which is what we’re all about,” Pete Bevacqua, chief business officer of the USGA, said during a conference call. “To join forces with a company like RBS, it’s just a real treat for us.”

Financial terms of the agreement were not released, although two officials aware of the negotiations said it was about $3 million a year. RBS has long been involved with the Royal & Ancient at the British Open, and recently signed on with the PGA of America. It also has a licensing agreement to use the Masters brand in advertising for BBC coverage.

“I think we’re happy with the portfolio we now have in golf,” said Allan Watt of RBS. “What I think is fascinating is not only does it give us fantastic exposure in the U.S., but we know that these major championships are watched around the world.”

The USGA did not have any corporate partners until it signed American Express in November of 2006. Since then, the USGA has added Lexus, IBM and now RBS. The companies all are listed on the USGA’s web site as corporate partners.

Bevacqua made clear, however, that RBS and the other corporate partners would not have a visible presence at Torrey Pines for the U.S. Open, or any other USGA events.

“When you walk on site, it is pure. It is logo-free, other than the USGA logo and our championship logo,” he said. “One of the reasons that the USGA is comfortable with a company like RBS is RBS isn’t in this for signage and to make a splash on site at the U.S. Open. They know that’s not part of our championship culture.”

American Express had a corporate tent for its members last year at the U.S. Open, and it allowed 82 of them to pay $900 to play Oakmont and tag along with Tiger Woods – who endorsed Amex at the time – as he played a practice round.

Lexus became the official courtesy car at USGA championship, while IBM is taking over the information systems at USGA events. The USGA was not specific about the role RBS will have at its biggest tournaments, saying that RBS will support “new media platforms” and contribute to the USGA’s “For the Good of the Game” program that takes golf to new audiences.

He said RBS would work with the grant program that enables charitable programs around the country. The company also will have a “Jack Nicklaus Majors Challenge,” where fans can try to recreate some of Nicklaus’ memorable shots either online or on site.

Nicklaus has an endorsement deal with RBS, and the bank issued a 5-pound note with his image when Nicklaus played his final major championship at St. Andrews three years ago.

“I’m excited and happy for both of them,” Nicklaus said of the agreement.

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