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What’s The Future For PGA Player Sponsorships?

About the author:

Jonathan Albrecht is an eight year credentialed agent / player manager on the PGA Tour. He currently represents professionals like Marco Dawson, Chris Couch, and is trying to pull Ed “The Grip” Fiori out of retirement.

What’s The Future For Player Sponsorships?

A few months back I received a call from Adam Barr of The Golf Channel. Adam is a talented reporter and a popular “on air” personality. He was doing a piece on the current state of the “PGA Tour Player Marketing Sponsorships” as it relates to the economy.

Yes, I know that the major automobile companies are having very tough times right now. They have been staples as title sponsorships of many tournaments for many years. These companies such as Buick, Ford, Mercedes-Benz, and Chrysler should be commended for their past support of professional golf and the charities involved. PGA Tour marketing or any sports marketing for that matter may take a back seat to companies staying afloat and people keeping their jobs.

I called on a few buddies who work on tour, I wanted to get their current take on the economy and current player sponsorship business. I actually ended up with a list of success stories while also getting an update on top trends for the golf fan.

Sterling Sports Management (How They See It)

I spoke with Jeff Chilcoat who is President of Sterling Sports Management. Jeff is always positive and ever so much the professional. He was at the recent LPGA event in Phoenix with some of his clients. He represents players like Brittany Lincicome, Carin Koch, Jill McGill and Jeong Jang from the LPGA. He also represents Eric Axley, Neal Lancaster, and Vance Veasey from the PGA Tour.

Jeff’s take on the current economy was that “The deals are still out there. You might have to look a little harder, and maybe even give more time (in terms of sponsor days) than in the past, but companies still see a big benefit to advertising on the golf tours.” Jeff has had great recent success with sponsorships for Stacy with Mizuno, FILA, PNC Bank, Vedalo HD (Sunglasses), Proctor & Gamble, and Titleist/Footjoy. It is always a pleasure talking with Jeff.

Hambric Sports Management (How They See It)

I also contacted Hambric Sports Management. Rocky Hambric and David Winkle have been very well respected agents on the PGA Tour for years with clients such as Justin Leonard, Steve Flesh, Bob Estes, and Colt Knost. David Winkle told me that he feels “the corporate world has slowed down on spending in sports. People are cautious and there seems to be some concern on spending (on sports marketing) from an image standpoint. I have to say from the golf side of things that we have been fortunate.” David was getting ready to travel to a college event which shows that Hambric Sports Management also has an eye on the future.

Manufacturers Representative (How They See It)

I spoke with Mike Neal who is a PGA Tour Manufacturers Representative for Club Glove and STX Putters. Mike has been on tour for over 10 years. He is well known and well liked by the players. The Club Glove travel bag is considered the standard on tour. Mike feels that it is and advantage when a company can produce a super high quality product. This will help considerably in an economy that isn’t going so well. Quality will always be in demand.

The NEW PGA Deal (Blanket Sponsorships!)

Personally I think this is a great time for the blanketed or team approach to PGA Tour sponsorships.
I am currently working on a “staff deal” or a team approach for a high end home audio company called Aperion Audio. Aperion Audio will choose about 5 pro’s to wear their logo on tour and give testimonials to the quality of their products.

A great example of this, in the distant past, was the Amana Hat deal. Many tour pro’s would wear the Amana hat back in the day and it was great branding at the time for the appliance company. A more recent example of a blanketed deal approach has been the Nature Valley Granola deal for the PGA Tour caddy’s. This is where the tour caddies would be awarded a point system for wearing the logo’d hat during the whole year. A nice paycheck came their way right around the holidays.

The “Belt Buckle” Sponsors

One trend that is most likely on tour to stay is the “notice me” belt buckle. Anthony Kim’s initials ‘AK’ belt buckle is almost always in play. Adidas has their 3-stripe buckle that is seen on their staff players. J. Lindeberg has had their JL buckle on tour for a few years now. The great putter designer, Bob Bettinardi, has a few cool buckles displaying a sophisticated style. (see www.bettinardi.com) I may start to ask some manufacturers if there is a “tee it up bonus” for having a belt buckle in play. In a tough economy, golfers are still dropping some nice coin on the belt buckle.

Shaft Company Sponsors On The Rise

I am also starting to notice shaft companies having staff players. This is pretty smart to keep some of the top players “locked in” in a way to playing a certain brand and gaining a nice sense of loyalty. There are many great choices in terms of shafts for the guys on tour.

One Final Thought-

The PGA Tour has given over one billion dollars to charity. The PGA Tour continues to show that golfers everywhere have big hearts. It should also be noted that we, as golfers, play the countless “barbeque circuit” tournaments to help out many worthy charities. I would not be out of bounds to say that we all should be super proud of a sport that represents friendship, honesty, good will, and humility all at the same time.
So go play some more golf and be proud of it during these trying times.
Here’s to you making more putts!

About the author:

Jonathan Albrecht is an eight year credentialed agent / player manager on the PGA Tour. He currently represents professionals like Marco Dawson, Chris Couch, and is trying to pull Ed “The Grip” Fiori out of retirement.

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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

CJ Bush April 6, 2009 at 10:00 am

I must say that we do have to give the PGA Tour credit for all of the charity work that has been done. I am not saying that the MLB, NBA or NFL don’t do any charity work, but the PGA Tour is constantly involved with local charities of tour stops and the First Tee is a great organization. I really respect what the tour players have done and I am sure they will continue to do the great work that they do.
I wouldn’t mind being sponsored to wear a logo either.

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mygolfspy April 6, 2009 at 12:22 pm

We will sponsor you CJ. Where do you want us to put our logo?

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CJ Bush April 6, 2009 at 12:27 pm

Since you are the only one in line I’ll give you your choice of where.

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BogeyThis April 7, 2009 at 5:32 am

I have to agree with CJ on this (it’s not a ploy for sponsorship either). I truly believe that the PGA and LPGA tours do an outstanding job for their sponsorships and charity work. I like the statement at the end of the article regarding the local charity tourneys we have all played in before. We do this not only for the tax benefit, but because of the love for the game and the opportunity to give back. Golf is serenity to all that play it on a regular basis and in my opinion PGA/LPGA Pros realize that they are making fantastics livings for playing a game they love, more so than other sports (NBA, NFL, MLB, etc).
I love finding logo balls, I love the course shirts and the free shirts at local tourneys…I wear them with pride regardless of how I played. I believe pros feel the same way…(not to mention I’m sure Nike is sure glad they grabbed Tiger when they did too).

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Chris Kennedy April 8, 2009 at 7:31 am

Ultimately, the PGA tour will not find itself short of sponsorship because they represent a great product, and would be sponsors are able to target a speciifc audience. This market is considered a little more wealthy and sophisticated, and presumably, with a little more disposable income.
Remember when Tom Watson refused to wear any logo’s on his hat? Thought it was intruding on the integrity of the game. In todays game, the players are adorned with so many logos and brands, it’s only a matter of time before they are forced to wear sandwich boards between shots.

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mygolfspy April 8, 2009 at 9:59 am

I don’t remember that with Watson Chris…you got a link to that story? I would love to read that. Thanks!

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Chris Kennedy April 9, 2009 at 5:58 am

Sorry. I don’t have a link, I am kind of a Luddite. But Watson refused to wear the RAM logo (if I recall correctly) somewhere in the mid to late 80′s–just when there was a distinct surge of labells on the player’s hats, shirts, etc. In today’s game. the player HAS to wear a hat to show off the name of his sponsor, even if he might prefer playing without one.

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mygolfspy April 9, 2009 at 6:35 am

It’s ok…thanks for looking. I think that would be a great story for MGS readers.

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Jonathan Albrecht April 8, 2009 at 11:52 am

Chris,
Thank you for taking the time to comment on this article.
I will pass along your thoughts regarding the PGA Tour and that they “represent a great product” at out next player manager meeting. That is very nice of you to post.
There is an informal guideline called by many “the John Daly rule” that PGA Tour players are not alowed more that 7 total logo’s on their person at one time.
The PGA Tour has some blue laws also regarding the advertinsing of alcohol, tobacco, gambling, and pornograophy. They also like to limit the size of the logo.
You are right on the ball with your comments.
Best to you, your family, and your golf game!

J.A.

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Tim April 8, 2009 at 9:21 pm

IF its helping all the players the tour and the sponsor I personally would have no problem with something on the bag or belt buckle, or Hat. But looking like JD did that was an extreme. I would have no problem with the blanket sponsorship, some players need all the help they can to make it to the next level!

Tim

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Parker April 10, 2009 at 5:43 pm

A very interesting article relating to a side of the golf world that most people don’t get an insight into.

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mygolfspy April 10, 2009 at 8:22 pm

Glad you liked it Parker…we will start covering more of this maybe.

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Kevin August 12, 2009 at 7:15 am

I know a lot of golf fans don’t like the multi-logoed shirts and hats that John Daly and Lee Westwood among others wear, but what is they could trade those smaller ones for a large one on the front or back of the shirt plus a a small one for the shirtmaker similar to European football (soccer) shirts?

It would give the sponsor a lot more exposure and the player would be able to charge enough to cover the loss of the smaller logos on the chest, sleeve and collar. This would require the Tours to change their rules governing size of ads, but i think it would bring new sponsors into the sport and cut down on the clutter.

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