Two local insurance companies have signed on as title sponsors of Southern California tennis tournaments.

The men’s and women’s professional tour stops were able to secure the new sponsors a year after both events were held without a main corporate partner.

Farmers Insurance Group, a leading underwriter of auto, home and life insurance, signed on for three years as title sponsor of the men’s professional tennis tournament at UCLA. The weeklong tennis event, held July 26-Aug. 1, will be known as the Farmers Classic. Farmers had signed on as a lower-level presenting sponsor in 2009.

“The support helps in so many ways,” said Bob Kramer, tournament director and son of legendary tennis champion Jack Kramer. “They back up the sponsorship with a strong presence on site.”

The tournament was sponsored for three years by Countrywide Financial Corp. before the company nearly collapsed during the housing bust and was purchased by Bank of America Corp. Prior to that, the tournament was sponsored by German carmaker Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz. The tournament still seeks a second-tier presenting sponsor.

This year will mark the 84th consecutive year for the L.A. tournament – the second-longest continuously held tennis event in the United States behind the U.S. Open.

The event, owned and managed by the non-profit Southern California Tennis Association, is held at UCLA’s Los Angeles Tennis Center, near Pauley Pavilion. A renovation of the basketball arena has already provided amenities that benefit the tournament such as additional parking and locker room improvements.

“We are part of an improving region of the campus,” Kramer said.

Farmers Insurance Group is a unit of Zurich, Switzerland-based Zurich Financial Services Group.

Officials with Farmers did not return calls for comment.

Meanwhile, another local insurance company signed on as title sponsor of the women’s pro tour event held at La Costa Resort and Spa in Carlsbad during the first week of August.

Mercury General Corp., located just down the road from Farmers on Wilshire Boulevard, will sponsor the tournament, which is now titled the Mercury Insurance Open.

The event has a bit of tortured history, replacing the L.A. Women’s Tennis Championships on the women’s calendar. The local event was owned by L.A. sports and entertainment company AEG and held at AEG’s Home Depot Center for seven years. But AEG sold the tournament to event manager Octagon after poor sponsorship and attendance in 2009. Octagon, a unit of New York advertising giant Interpublic Group of Cos., moved the event to Carlsbad. La Costa Resort and Spa had hosted a women’s tennis tournament for many years, most recently named the Acura Classic before it was canceled in 2007.

Mercury General, a large discount auto insurer, doesn’t spend much of its marketing dollars on sports. Prior to the tournament sponsorship, it occasionally partnered with sports teams for individual promotions.

Mercury officials did not return calls for comment.

Details of neither sponsorship deal were not released.

Street Ball

Some of the best basketball players in the world compete inside Staples Center. Now, for the second consecutive year, amateur athletes will have a chance to compete outside.

The streets surrounding arena will be the site of a three-on-three basketball tournament hosted by AEG on Aug. 7-8. About 500 teams entered the competition in 2009. This time around, AEG officials expect that number to double to about 1,000. AEG also was able to bring on a corporate sponsor that has cache among both professional and amateur basketball players: Nike Inc.

The games will be played on dozens of courts set up on the streets surrounding Staples Center. The championship court will sit on the plaza in front of Nokia Theatre.

If the growth continues, AEG plans to expand the tournaments to other cities and perhaps eventually all cities with National Basketball Association franchises.

Home Run

Two local companies took home awards from the Sports Business Journal last week.

L.A.-based Premier Partnerships was honored with an award for being the best in property consulting, sales and client services. CAA Sports, a division of talent agency Creative Artists Agency, was honored for being the best in talent representation and management.

Premier Partnerships was chosen from a group of five nominees that included local sports marketing firm Wasserman Media Group. Premier Partnerships was chosen based on its completing naming-rights deals for the Philadelphia Union’s PPL Park and San Diego State University’s Viejas Arena.

The company was founded in 2003 by sports industry veterans Alan Rothenberg and Randy Bernstein, who share management with Chief Operating Officer Jeff Marks.

“It’s great to be recognized, especially when you are going up against companies that have hundreds of employees and you have a dozen,” Marks said.

CAA Sports was chosen in part because of its success negotiating the largest rookie contract in National Football League history for 2009’s No. 1 overall pick, Matt Stafford of the Detroit Lions. The agency launched a sports division in 2006 and represented nine of the top 19 draft picks in the 2009 NFL draft.

Staff reporter David Nusbaum can be reached at dnusbaum@labusinessjournal.com or at (323) 549-5225, ext. 236.

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