Next month the Sony Open in Hawaii will be the first PGA Tour co-sponsored event to feature live weekend coverage in 3-D, a development that parallels the sharper picture of the tournament’s sponsorship future.
Sony Corp. yesterday announced a three-year extension that will take it through 2014, making it the tournament’s longest-running title sponsor at 16 years.
Sony general manager Kay Aoki said the renewal came after much discussion amid a difficult economy. In the end, what the electronics giant had built up over 12 years of associations was too much to walk away from, Aoki said.
"It was a hard decision to make and sponsorships are normally very difficult to decide on especially in a long term like three years at a time when the economy is (ailing)," Aoki said.
The estimated worth of the extension is $8 million to $10 million a year.
The 2011 Sony Open will run Jan. 13-16 and have upwards of a $5.5 million purse.
Sony, which replaced United Airlines as the title sponsor in 1999, last year announced just a one-year renewal of its sponsorship of the event to take it through 2011 and there was concern locally that Sony might step away after that.
"But the contribution of the Sony Open to us is huge," Aoki said, "and we decided it was well worth it."
In addition to demonstrating the company’s 3-D developments, she said Sony entertains several hundred customers and executives during the weeklong event. "We’ve been able to build a lot of good relationships with our guests that come to Hawaii, that we bring to Hawaii for the Sony Open," Aoki said.
Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle wants to host Sony and the tournament even longer.
"I hope it will not last just for three more years but for as long as is humanly possible," Carlisle said.
The event also claims to be the state’s leading charity sports event with "more than $10 million" raised. Net proceeds benefit Friends of Hawaii Charities.
The 2010 Sony Open was a testing ground for 3-D golf coverage, helping to pave the way for this year’s plans.
"We have seen what high-definition does for golf telecasts and 3-D is the logical next step to enhancing our broadcasts and providing fans with the ultimate viewing experience, particularly in such a beautiful setting as Hawaii," PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said in a release.