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Celebrity golf tourney finds sponsor

“American Century Celebrity Golf Championship at Edgewood Tahoe.”

The new name of South Shore’s major sporting event may be a mouthful but it’s music to the ears of local business officials.

NBC Sports, owner and producer of the event, announced Tuesday that a multi-year agreement had been reached with American Century Investments beginning with this year’s tournament scheduled for July 2-4.



“I think it’s wonderful,” said Phil Weidinger of Weidinger Public Relations, which helps promote and organize the event. “It’s the best special event we have up here. What it means in terms of South Lake Tahoe exposure is in millions of dollars.”

“It’s taken several years to develop a high-profile following that merges the interests of celebrity and the interests of purists of golf,” said Douglas County Commissioner Don Miner, who also serves on the boards for the Tahoe-Douglas and Lake Tahoe visitors authorities. “We’re happy to recognize the new title.”




Sponsorship of the tournament has been up in the air since Isuzu declined to continue its name-sponsorship following the 1998 event. Previously, NBC Sports, which owns the championship, had agreed to carry it through 1999. An effort was under way among the casinos and other local businesses to raise the $2.5 million needed for local sponsorship to ensure the event would continue on the south shore of the lake.

Miner said American Century’s sponsorship would be more than $2 million a year for what he estimated would be a three- to five-year agreement.

In the meantime, NBC Sports and Sports Marketing and Television International continued the search for a new name sponsor, negotiating with a number of major companies.

“We are very happy to have a partner who recognizes that this event is one of the best branding and integrated sponsorship opportunities in television sports,” said Jon Miller, senior vice president of NBC Sports.

American Century Investments, headquartered in Kansas City, Mo., is full-service investment firm specializing in mutual funds.

“Title sponsorships are like oceanfront property. There are only so many available and the good ones are prized,” said Michael Barr, vice president of brand management for American Century. “Golf is a good fit for American Century. Mastering golf is the combination of skill, discipline, hard work and the will to win. We think those traits align well with what we do for our investors.”

Secondary sponsors currently include American Isuzu Motors, EMC Corporation, Taylor Made Golf, TWA, Hewlett Packard and Beck’s Beer North America.

In announcing the event, officials declined to define “multi-year agreement” other than to say it was “more than one year.”

Besides the main golf event – the tournament on Friday, Saturday and Sunday that has a $500,000 purse; practice rounds through the previous week; and a celebrity amateur event on Wednesday – locals and guests can look forward to additional parties and auctions during the week.

The Celebrity Golf Championship historically has offered tremendous exposure for Lake Tahoe tourism via national and international television coverage.

As previously, NBC will broadcast the championship live on Saturday and Sunday. The Golf Channel will provide first-round coverage on Friday.

Besides the indirect exposure South Shore of Lake Tahoe receives from television views, this year, South Shore tourism officials will have the opportunity to fill two 30-second commercial spots on Sunday for a direct pitch to home viewers.

Just seeing the lake, isn’t enough, Weidinger said. “We need them to see how to get here.”

That’s where advertising from the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority, complete with an 800 number for information and lodging, comes in handy.

The Celebrity Golf Championship from Lake Tahoe debuted in 1990 with Super Bowl MVP Mark Rypien capturing the inaugural event. Last year, NHL Hall of Fame center Mario Lemieux birdied the final three holes to defeat former champions Billy Joe Tolliver and Dick Anderson by a stroke.

Past competitors have also included Michael Jordan, John Elway, Charles Barkley, Matt Lauer, Dan Marino, Jack Wagner and Jerry Rice.


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