Lexus Signs Deal With U.S. Golf Association

Toyota's luxury division Lexus has signed a multi-year deal with the United States Golf Association (USGA) to be its first exclusive automotive sponsor.

Spend wasn't disclosed, but the deal includes "official vehicle" status for the U.S. Open, U.S. Women's Open, U.S. Senior Open and U.S. Amateur.

"The obvious fit is that the USGA will now be able to offer Lexus vehicles and provide the players with an enhanced experience at selected USGA national championships while Lexus gets to showcase its product line at the very top events in golf--the USGA national championships," said USGA President Walter Driver, in a release.

Lexus said it will launch an integrated effort including advertising, public relations, direct marketing, promotions, Internet efforts, dealer events and efforts targeting USGA membership. Lexus will also have in-venue activities at matches, which it said will include clinics, charitable tie-ins, signage and special events.

Nancy Hubbell, who heads up prestige communications for Lexus, noted that since its advent in the early 1990s, Lexus has been involved in Shark Shootout with Greg Norman, a tournament with Raymond Floyd, and the Michael Douglas and Friends tournament. Lexus also sponsors golfers Annika Sorenstam, Raymond Floyd, Nick Watney and Peter Jacobsen.

"The partnership with the USGA came about because our customers are very passionate about golf and we saw this as an opportunity to increase our involvement, much like we've done with our sponsorship with the USTA and U.S. Open Tennis," Hubbell said. "The USGA is just opening its doors to corporate sponsors (we're only the second), and they liked what we brought to the table."

Hubbell also said that Lexus will receive exposure through its broadcast title sponsorship on NBC for the championships.

As golf has become more appealing to younger players, it has become a more attractive sponsorship venue for automakers. Last year, BMW inked a six-year deal with PGA TOUR and the Western Golf Association (WGA) that created the BMW Championship.

General Motors' Buick division, for whom Tiger Woods has been a pitchman for several years, last spring extended its title sponsorship of the PGA Buick Invitational at La Jolla, Calif., through 2010. According to the National Golf Foundation, more than 15 million adult golfers 18 or older in the U.S. play at least occasionally.

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