[PHOTO: Ben Jared]
Farmers Insurance, title sponsor for the PGA Tour stop at Torrey Pines in San Diego since 2010, does not plan to renew its contract when it expires in 2026, according to a report from Sports Business Journal. The news comes three weeks ahead of the 2024 edition of the event will be played on Torrey Pines’ North and South courses.
Farmers is the second company to decide to drop its title sponsorship with the tour in as many months. Wells Fargo announced in December that it would step away from its role as title sponsor of the tour event at Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte after 2024.
The decision appears to be part of larger plan at Farmers to take a step back from using golf as a marketing platform. Last week at the Sentry, Rickie Fowler told the Associated Press that the company did not renew its endorsement deal with him during the PGA Tour’s offseason.
“I think they have a new CEO and are downsizing,” Fowler said. “I don’t know if they’re going to do much in golf. They’ll go with their contract in golf [at Torrey Pines]. I don’t know if they’ll extend on that.”
Raul Vargas took over as Farmers chief executive in early 2023. Last August, the company announced that it was laying off about 2,400 employees (roughly 11 percent of its workforce) as part of a corporate restructuring.
Title sponsorship costs for a regular full-field PGA Tour event have increased to between $US13 million and $US15 million. The PGA Tour has brought on two new title sponsors for events starting in 2024: Cognizant for the tournament at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, and Texas Children’s Hospital for the Houston Open. The tour also brought in CJ Group to take over the title sponsorship of the Byron Nelson event in Dallas.
“Nobody has come to us and said anything or done anything,” said Marty Gorsich, tournament director for the Farmers Insurance Open, when asked about the report that Farmers would be stepping away after 2026. “I don’t want to say no comment because no comment sounds like you’re got something. I’ve got nothing. We’ve got a tournament. They’re going to be coming out here in a week. They’re committed to our event. We’ve got two more years. We’re business as usual. There’s definitely no press conference scheduled with some big announcement.”
Gorsich said the past two years have been the most successful for the tournament financially, the COVID-19 pandemic causing his team to get smart with the way it organised and operated the event. He praised Farmers for its involvement in the tournament overall.
“They’ve been with us for 15 years. They joined us and, in some ways, saved us by jumping in when the economy was down,” Gorsich said. “We’ve been through stuff with them when the economy has gone up and swung back down. They’ve been through a pandemic with us. Our organisation had challenges and they stuck with us, and we’ve been in a good place. I think right now their business is changing. It’s not wholly Farmers. It’s insurance in California.”
According to the Sports Business Journal report, Farmers will cut back on the number of executives it is sending to this year’s tournament. The report also said that the company returned a number of hotel rooms to the tour.