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What’s in a name? Nothing major…

Quick–name the four “major” titles on the men’s and women’s professional tennis circuit. Easy, right? Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon, and the US Open. OK, do it again for the golfers on the PGA tour. Also easy: The Masters, US Open, The Open Championship (that’d be the British Open to most US fans), and the PGA Championship. Now, quick, name the LPGA‘s four major championships.

Not so easy, is it? I can name three with relative ease: The LPGA Championship, the US Open, and the British Open (though the British only became a major for the women in 2001). But what about the fourth? It’s this week’s event, the Kraft Nabisco Championship. I didn’t know that until I read about it earlier this week. (I knew there were four, but I had no idea what the fourth was called.)

The history of the LPGA’s majors is somewhat convoluted–this article explains it all fairly well. But the bigger question here is, if you take the 12 event names above, can you quickly tell which one doesn’t belong? Another easy answer, of course: the Kraft Nabisco Championship. And why doesn’t it belong? Because it’s the only “major” event that has a sponsor’s name (Nabisco is owned by Kraft, so I’ll just count that as one sponsor) embedded right there in the event’s title.

So what happens in three (or five or whatever) years when the Kraft sponsorship is up, and they decide not to renew? Will the fourth major then become the Ford Explorer Championship or the Wal-Mart Championship or perhaps the 7-11 Championship? Whatever happens, it won’t make it easy for the LPGA’s fans to remember all four of the majors. To me, and perhaps it’s my old-fashioned traditionalist side, major event names shouldn’t have a sponsor’s name directly attached to the event. Once the TV time starts, sure, all bets are off–I have no issues with “The US Open presented by IBM,” for instance, as the tag line used on the air. But not as part of the event’s official name–getting noted in the record books every year, and subject to change at the whim of some corporate bean counter (I used to be one of those!) somewhere who nixes the $10 million sponsorship contract.

Come on, LPGA, do the right thing: name your major something non-vendor-dependent, and then sell the TV sponsorship rights for the broadcast. The Tradition, The National, whatever–I really don’t care what you name it, just name it such that the fans won’t have to remember a new name every time there’s sponsorship turnover. That’s hardly the way to build mind share with the fans for one of your four major championships.

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  1. In the UK for football (what Americans call soccer) we have the “Barclays Premiership” (Barclays is a bank) and the “Coca-cola Championship” (Coca-cola makes health-destroying goo). We have the “Carling Cup” (Carling makes beer).

    The latter is properly known as the “League Cup” and confusingly has twice been sponsored by Coca-cola.

    With the golf tournaments, you can’t tell at a glance what sport is involved. I don’t follow golf, so “The Masters” could mean anything, as I’m sure a non-UK football fan would not know that “The Premiership” is the best football league in the world :-)

    Maybe there should be some ISO standard on competion names, eg:

    region | country sport level type … [ sponsored by … ]

    so:

    UK Football Premiere League sponsored by Barclays
    US Golf Masters Tour
    European Football Champions League
    UK Football FA Cup

    etc

    Wimbledon should just be “Wimbledon” though :-))

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