If the LPGA needed to create more exposure for its brand, it certainly accomplished that task by announcing this week that it will require its members to pass an English proficiency test. The new policy is being positioned as an effort to have the LPGA's players equipped to deal with the media and sponsors. In particular, the policy appears to target the large Korean delegation on the LPGA tour. The policy is effective immediately, and the proficiency tests will be first administered near the end of 2009. The LPGA pledges to give non-English speaking players support in the form of instruction and tutoring to help develop their English.
The new policy has met with a great deal of criticism. The PGA has several players who do not speak English, but it has no such policy nor has given any indication it would consider it. While it is certainly beneficial for the LPGA to have its players be able to converse with reporters and VIPs from sponsors in English, the new policy may be too heavy handed. The LPGA currently has more than 100 international members, which could potentially be leveraged as part of a global brand building effort. The international flavor of its players could be given greater emphasis than the edict of "speak English or you will be suspended." If nothing else, the new policy may create a new sponsorship category for the LPGA: I can envision Rosetta Stone or Berlitz as the official English language resource of the LPGA!
Link: ESPN.com - "LPGA Will Suspend Memberships if Players Don't Learn English"
Labels: Sports Marketing