LPGA steps up image drive via Sorenstam's red shoes

RANCHO MIRAGE, CA: When Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) star Annika Sorenstam won the Kraft Nabisco Championship a few weeks ago, it was the golfer's footwear that made headlines.

RANCHO MIRAGE, CA: When Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) star Annika Sorenstam won the Kraft Nabisco Championship a few weeks ago, it was the golfer's footwear that made headlines.

Her red patent leather shoes quickly became the poster-loafers for the LPGA's recently announced "Five Points of Celebrity

marketing and PR initiative.

The five-year plan seeks to attract more fans and boost television ratings by revamping the images of top players.

"In order to increase your sponsorship and overall prize money, you have to attract more fans,

explained LPGA's senior media relations coordinator Neil Reid. "You get more fans coming, and your events are more desirable."

Presented to tour members in March, the plan asks players to boost their efforts in five areas: "passion and joy,

appearance, relevance to viewers, accessibility to media and fans, and performance as pro athletes - all "areas players need to focus on in order to make themselves more marketable,

said Reid.

But don't expect the LPGA to field a tournament full of Anna Kournikova types. Reid is quick to point out that each player is only being asked to assess areas in which they can promote themselves. For relevance, it could be a player's "Christian beliefs, or 'mothers on tour,'

clarified Reid. "Whatever you have that fans can relate to."

And improving appearance can be as simple as smiling more - or wearing red shoes, he continued: "It doesn't mean that you have to be the most beautiful person in the world. (Sorenstam's loafers) were flashy. That attracted a lot of media attention, and fan attention too."

The response to the plan is positive so far - both from players and media.

"We've seen a good reaction from the players to these suggestions,

Reid confirmed, pointing out that players are signing more autographs and granting more interviews.

Coverage of the plan has also been positive despite potential for controversy.

Outlets such as the Los Angeles Times have written articles praising the initiative, and the last few weekends have seen some of the highest TV ratings ever for LPGA events.

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