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Mercedes becomes global Masters sponsor

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AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) - Mercedes-Benz has upgraded its corporate involvement at the Masters by becoming one of three global sponsors, allowing the German-based automaker to air television ads during the limited commercial space in domestic telecasts.

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Augusta National chairman Billy Payne said Tuesday that Mercedes-Benz will join AT&T and IBM as the tournament's three main sponsors.

Mercedes replaces ExxonMobil, which had been a global sponsor since 2005.

The Masters kept its total sponsorship to five companies - three global sponsors and two international partners. Mercedes had been a partner since 2008 until elevating its sponsorship status. Payne said UPS has signed on as the other partner, joining Rolex.

``The Masters is the most prestigious golf tournament in the world. It is a great honor for Mercedes-Benz to now be associated with the Masters Tournament as one of the three global sponsors,'' said Joachim Schmidt, the company's executive vice president of sales and marketing.

Terms of the agreements were not disclosed.

Unlike other tournaments, sponsors of the Masters do not use logos anywhere on the golf course. Some of the client entertainment takes place in permanent chalets tucked well behind the trees left of the 10th fairway.

The Masters went two years without corporate sponsors during the initial dispute in 2003 over all-male membership. The tournament was commercial-free for two years, with the club picking up the tab for the broadcast fees.

Sponsorship returned in 2005 with AT&T, IBM and ExxonMobil as the main three. The Masters only has four minutes of commercials for every hour.

Last fall, Augusta National accepted its first two female members, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and South Carolina financier Darla Moore. Both were at the Masters this month in their green jackets.

``The relationships we form are important to our commitment of continuous improvement, and we sincerely appreciate the longtime assistance and enthusiasm of ExxonMobil for their support,'' Payne said. ``We now look forward to growing our associations with Mercedes-Benz and UPS, two globally recognized brands that also share a passion for the Masters and the tournament's sustained success.''

ExxonMobil did not say why its sponsorship of the Masters ended.

``ExxonMobil has concluded its advertising sponsorship of the Masters tournament after nine successful years,'' spokesman Alan Jeffers said in an email. ``ExxonMobil continually evaluates and modifies our sponsorship and advertising requirements based on business needs.''

Mercedes-Benz has been active in sports sponsorship since the 1980s. It shifted its marketing strategy in recent years, ending its title sponsorship of the season opener in Kapalua and signing deals to become the official car of the PGA Championship and to become an international partner with the Masters.

Adam Scott became the first Australian to win the Masters this year. He already had a sponsorship deal with Mercedes.

AP NEWS
The Associated Press News Service

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The Associated Press
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