LPGA speaks a tough language many don't understand ~ Brand Mix

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

LPGA speaks a tough language many don't understand

Considering it was supposed to be at least partly for them, at least one LPGA sponsor doesn't seem to be showing much gratitude for its decision to suspend players from the tour if they don't speak English.

State Farm, a general sponsor of the LPGA as well as the sponsor of the State Farm Classic Tournament was "flabbergasted" and "dumbfounded" by the news. "We don't understand this and don't know why they have done it, and we have strongly encouraged them to take another look at this," said Kip Biggs, a media-relations specialist at the company.

I first heard about this story yesterday when I read that Lorena Ochoa of Mexico had called the new LPGA policy "a little drastic". My first reaction was that the LPGA's No. 1 player has a career as a diplomat if she wants or needs it after finishing with golf. Drastic? Some of the other words that have been flying around in the press and blogs include "shameful" (Advertising Age), "offensive"(New York Times) "way out of bounds" (Boston Globe) and even "racist" (various blogs and blog comments).

What struck me about the decision was how last-century it seems (and not the last half of the century either). Carolyn Bivens, the LPGA Commissioner, upset by the negative press, told Golf World: "If these players don't take this step [and learn English], their ability to earn a living is reduced. They will be cut out of corporate and endorsement opportunities." But clearly she thinks they are not smart enough to figure that out for themselves so some tough love is needed. Paternalism with a big stick.

All this happens as the LPGA aspires to become a "global tour" holding more tournaments than ever before held outside the United States and with more international stars playing in its competitions. Already revenue from Korean television is the LPGA's biggest single source of income but it's the Korean players who are most at risk from this new policy.

Can you imagine another international or international-minded sport governing body acting the same way? Wait. It might be a great idea for the IOC--it would certainly help Britain win more medals in London. And no more French at the opening ceremony!

UPDATE (Sep 5th): LPGA scraps English 'exam' plans: Just two days after this blog posting, the LPGA changed its mind and scrapped the idea of suspending players who couldn't speak English. Coincidence? (Yes)

1) State Farm Blasts LPGA English Proficiency Policy: Advertising Age
2) What Was the LPGA Thinking? Advertising Age
3) Bivens speaks out about LPGA Tour's controversial English ruling: ESPN.com
4) Storm clouds gather after LPGA's English rule: IHT


BIG Kahuna said...

I must say I love it! I bet you knew that though...

Look they're trying to promote their sport. Much of the time the people that win can't even speak to reporters because they don't speak English.

Now only if people that live in America could take the time to speak our language...

Martin Bishop said...

Maybe they could institute a handicapping system where the more attractive, personable, better spoken players could be given a nice head start (say up to 5 strokes/round). Then the best players (for promotion purposes) would win more often. How about that?

BIG Kahuna said...

Normally my pit bull attitiude would click in here but they ain't worth my time.

I watch them as much as I watch the WNBA!http://www.brandidentityguru.com/wordpress/2008/07/wnba-branding/

And I don't want to get banned from your blog...I've been crying in my hands all day today ;)

Martin Bishop said...

Wow. Such restraint! (You're miles away from getting banned.)

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