BMW Becomes Exclusive Car Sponsor of PGA's New Playoff Event

First Foray With Pro Golf Undercuts Established Players Buick and Cadillac

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DETROIT ( -- In a move that undercuts rivals Buick and Cadillac, BMW of North America is making its first foray into sponsorship of the PGA Tour in a deal that splashes its name over a new golf playoff format.
The BMW Championship is one of three playoff rounds before the FedEx Cup.
The BMW Championship is one of three playoff rounds before the FedEx Cup.

BMW CEO Tom Purves today announced in Chicago a six-year deal with the PGA Tour and the Western Golf Association that will create the BMW Championship starting in 2007. The BMW Championship will be the third of four PGA Tour playoff tournaments under the organization's new format, which starts the week of Sept. 3 at Chicago's Cog Hill & Country Club.

So while other automakers may sponsor events leading up to the playoffs, BMW will be the exclusive car in the playoff rounds that help determine the winner in the FedEx Cup championship.

Similar to Nascar format
The PGA Tour playoff series is similar to what Nascar did in revamping its Nextel Cup championship -- players accumulate points in the first 26 races and the top 10 advance to a season-ending 10-race playoff. The framework for capturing the PGA crown calls for the top 144 players in the points chase to qualify for the last four playoff events. Those events are the Barclays Classic in New York, the Deutsche Bank Championship in Boston and the BMW Championship. Results from those three events will set the stage for the Tour Championship event.

PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem will announce the details of the FedEx Cup championship in a press conference tomorrow in New York.

The playoff sponsorship is something of a coup for BWM, which managed to close the deal ahead of established sponsors such as General Motors Corp.'s Buick and Cadillac brands.

Golf is the top pastime of BMW owners, so the partnership makes sense, Mr. Purves told Advertising Age. The automaker has been involved globally with golf for 20 years, starting with an amateur tournament. It later expanded to Germany's Munich Open in its home market, the Asian Open and the Players event in the U.K.

Engineers at events
BMW will be displaying its cars at its U.S. PGA events with on-site engineers to detail their technology and performance to consumers, Mr. Purves said.

He declined to reveal BMW's spending for the partnership, but the cost is an estimated $5 million to $7 million annually just for a title event sponsor, plus $3 million for TV advertising and other incidentals, such as courtesy cars for players and TV production costs, according to earlier reports.

Mr. Purves said golf is BMW's third sports marketing pillar globally. The marketer is already linked with sailing through the U.S. Americas Cup and BMW Oracle Racing, and motor sports via BMW's Sauber F1 team.
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