Three Marketers Sign on After Two Sponsorless Years

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DETROIT ( -- Sponsors -- and commercials -- will be back at The Masters golf tournament in 2005, Augusta National Golf Club's chairman said today.

Two years after the club's chairman,

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William "Hootie" Johnson, dropped sponsors in response to a corporate campaign against the club's all-male membership, IBM Corp., ExxonMobil and SBC Communications will be the three sponsors of golf's most revered tournament. IBM is the only returning sponsor. Coca-Cola Co. and Citigroup, which were part of the last Masters tourney to have sponsors and commercials in 2002, will not be returning.

90 extra minutes
In addition, Mr. Johnson announced that Viacom's CBS and NBC Universal's USA, which televise The Masters over four days, will be given 90 extra minutes of broadcast time. Commercial advertising time will remain at just four minutes per hour and be the exclusive domain of the three sponsors. Augusta National Golf Club said it would not comment further.

Mr. Johnson dropped sponsors and commercials two years ago when Martha Burk, head of the National Council of Women's Organizations, called for a boycott of the sponsors and the tournament because the club does not have any female members. At the time, Mr. Johnson said he did not want IBM, Coca-Cola and Citigroup to be drawn into the fracas.

He continued without sponsors for The Masters again this past April, saying at the time that the club could go on "indefinitely" without sponsorship of golf tournament.

Ms. Burk was not available for comment.

In a statement, ExxonMobil spokeswoman Lauren Kerr said the issue of gender and membership at Augusta National Golf Club "is a decision for their board. But the Masters Tournament stands as one of the world's leading sporting events, and that's where our focus is."

Karen Jennings, senior vice president for human resources and communications for San Antonio-based SBC, in a statement said the marketer is "enthusiastic about the unique opportunity" to sponsor the event. "This is a great opportunity for SBC, as one of only three television sponsors, to effectively market our products, services and expertise to tens of millions of viewers."

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