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Call it the mother of all promotional golf tournaments.

The Oldsmobile Scramble already may put the Olds name in front of more professional and amateur golfers than any other golf event in the world. This year Oldsmobile is upping the ante by giving participants cash or merchandise incentives to test-drive its products.

The scramble, which has been hosted by Oldsmobile since 1984, attracts more than 100,000 golfers annually from hundreds of communities throughout the United States. Foursomes start at the local level, moving up to regional contests, where they team up with a pro.

The final stop this year is the national championships Oct. 6-10 at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla. There, about 300 five-person teams will compete for prizes of gift certificates and championship rings for the amateurs; the winning pro gets $30,000.

"This is a real grassroots event that we always let the dealers handle, but this year we will take the initiative on the national level," says Karen Francis, marketing general manager for Oldsmobile. "From an expense standpoint, this will probably be our biggest event this year."

Olds is allocating 17 percent of its total sponsorship budget to golf in 1999, up from 13 percent last year. IEG Sponsorship Report, a Chicago newsletter that tracks event spending, estimates General Motors spent $21 million on golf last year, with Oldsmobile and Buick receiving most of the money.

Francis says offering scramble participants incentives to test-drive Oldsmobiles will help the division collect names for future contacts while measuring the effectiveness of the scramble. The incentives will include cash and merchandise; details aren't final.

The new incentives will be in addition to whatever dealers continue to offer on the local level.

"For us, getting people through the door - just to get people to know our brand - is very important," Francis says. Done properly, Francis believes follow-ups from events may be more effective than money spent on TV campaigns. "We could easily throw a bunch of commercials on TV," she says. "But we can't measure TV

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