SBJ/November 10 - 16, 2003/Forty Under 40

Jon Podany

While he was working at Procter & Gamble in early 1995, Jon Podany heard from a friend about a job opening at the PGA Tour. "I'd always had in the back of my mind that I'd like to get into the sports industry," he said.

"I'd always had a strong interest in sports," added Podany, who was a backup quarterback on the Miami (Ohio) University football team during his freshman and sophomore years.

He landed the job at the PGA Tour in March 1995, leaving Cincinnati for Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., to become the tour's director of business development. From March '95 through November 1998 — first as director and later as vice president of business development — Podany had a major role in helping secure $250 million in sponsorships. Those deals included official tour partnerships and tournament title sponsorships, as well as sponsorships of the World Golf Village and World Golf Hall of Fame. Among the marketing partners: Shell (a 20-year agreement), IBM (a 10-year agreement), MasterCard and AT&T.

Help snag $250 million worth of business and you get noticed. In December 1998, Podany was named vice president of brand development, a newly created position at the tour.

Today, he is the tour's vice president of brand development and marketing support services. Just eight months ago, the tour created the in-house marketing support services group and tapped Podany to manage it. That department's charge is to develop ideas and initiatives that enable sponsors to further leverage their relationships with the tour and tour events.

As vice president of brand development, the 38-year-old Podany is responsible, he said, for "continuing to build our brand and strengthen the image of the tour so that we are able to drive more fans to the tour and more viewers to our telecasts."

Podany has had an eventful year, leading several new tour initiatives. First and foremost was a rebranding effort that included renaming the Senior PGA Tour the Champions Tour. The rebranding also featured a push to wrap the Champions Tour and the newly named Nationwide Tour, the PGA Tour's feeder circuit, under the banner of the PGA Tour.

"We're treating our tours more as a brand family, the PGA Tour brand family," Podany said. "We've done a better job of tying our tours together — under the PGA Tour mark."

There were myriad reasons behind the rebranding. Research showed that baby boomers, particularly those over 50, did not think of themselves as seniors. "We also were finding that fewer companies really wanted to associate their brands with something called senior," Podany said. "And we found that there wasn't a high awareness of the fact that the PGA Tour managed both the Senior Tour and what was then the feeder tour."

He and his staff also put together the integrated marketing plan designed to publicize the rebranding.

Additionally, Podany was in charge of a push to better communicate the extensive charitable efforts of the tour and its tournaments. "We're delivering consistent communication about the idea of giving back," he said. The ad campaign's tag line: "Giving Back: the Heart of the PGA Tour."

Podany also is a key player in the tour's growing effort to target such demographic groups as kids, Hispanics and women. "We're creating strategies and marketing platforms to reach those groups more effectively and developing ways that our sponsors can tie in," he said.

There are several such projects in development that are slated for 2004. For example, Podany said the tour is considering creating a "junior clubhouse" — equipped with a variety of games and activities for kids — at various tournament sites. Other on-site experiences, to be set up at a handful of tournaments, would be aimed primarily at Hispanics. Another possibility: producing a TV special targeted largely at the Latino audience.

The tour has tapped Podany's department to develop a "Vision for the Tour," a five-year plan for growth, ranging from broadening the fan base to building the brand.

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