2000: PGA Tour’s ‘bullpen’ closes biggest deals

Star driven. Corporate friendly.

Sound like a sales pitch? It is – for the PGA Tour. And one of its chief salesmen is Tom Wade, senior vice president for corporate marketing and business development for the Tour.

“Golf is, by any way you want to measure it, the hottest major sport in the world today,” said Wade. “The accumulative reach of a PGA Tour event exceeds every sport except football. It is a broad-based major league sport that not only delivers an attractive demographic but provides a very wholesome and positive image that promotes players as role models.

Wade heads what amounts to a small four-person sales staff charged with establishing and building relationships involving the PGA Tour, its tournament hosts and the corporate world. The PGA Tour’s ability to perfect its marketing of sponsorships has elevated professional golf to a new level.

“Basically, there are two kinds of sponsorships: There are title sponsors and there are corporate licensees,” Wade said. “And in fact many of our corporate licensees are also title sponsors. An example is Buick, which is the Tour’s official car and also a sponsor of several events. AT&T is official communications partner and they also sponsor an event. There is MasterCard and so forth, so there is a lot of crossover there.”

Wade’s team has a lead role in developing the partnerships, both title and otherwise. While tournaments ultimately have the responsibility of securing a title sponsor, the Tour team often is responsible for helping make it a reality.

Wade likes to think of his group as the “bullpen” in those situations.

“We’ll come in and do whatever we can to make it happen,” he said. “We’ll work with tournaments to secure titles and also to document the value to help in the retention of title sponsors. We have another group that services the title sponsors once they are in place.”

The latest Nielsen measurement indicates 70 percent of U.S. households view at least one golf tournament during the year.

While acknowledging their game’s impact, PGA Tour officials insist sponsors ultimately must determine if the PGA Tour is the right vehicle for them.

“I don’t know if there is an ideal or scientific way to determine the perfect fit. There’s really no set mechanism,” said Tim Crosby, director of tournament business affairs for the PGA Tour. “... In the old days, there were probably more sponsors who got involved because they liked golf, as opposed to it being the right marketing vehicle. I think today they scrutinize these things a lot more closely because they are spending a lot more money.”

Jay C. Upchurch is a Norman, Okla.-based free-lance writer.

Genuity, Inc., recently announced it will join the PGA Tour as a title sponsor in 2001, stepping in for Ryder at the Doral Golf Resort in Miami. The relatively new company, a spin-off of the GTE and Bell Atlantic merger, is hoping to familiarize its name and build its brand via the new partnership.

The latest Nielsen measurement indicates 70 percent of U.S. households view at least one golf tournament during the year. With golf’s popularity obviously on the rise, Genuity officials believe the timing is perfect.

“We are very excited about the opportunity to sponsor a tournament that has established itself as such a prestigious national sporting event,” stated company president Joseph Farina in a report. “An event of this magnitude gives us a platform to build a global presence and awareness of Genuity.”

Jay C. Upchurch is a Norman, Okla.-based free-lance writer.

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