SBJ/March 22 - 28, 2004/Marketingsponsorship

PwC increases investment in PGA Tour’s TPC

PricewaterhouseCoopers has pumped up its presence at this week's The Players Championship, one of the top events on the PGA Tour, with a major media and hospitality package.

While the event does not seek a title sponsor, PricewaterhouseCoopers will have an expanded presence at the tournament in a strategy reminiscent of the ones employed by Cadillac and The Travelers during their long-term associations with Augusta National and the Masters.

PwC is expanding its hospitality, on-course media role with skybox on the 18th green.
Tournament organizers aren't pushing the analogy, but it's unmistakable. After testing the waters last year, PricewaterhouseCoopers has bought four prime hospitality venues at the TPC at Sawgrass, including a specially built, solid-walled building overlooking the 18th green and featuring hardwood floors and an observation deck.

In addition, PricewaterhouseCoopers has underwritten all of the on-course print media, including the event program, the spectator guide and the daily pairings sheet. Usually filled with ads of all sizes from myriad sponsors and suppliers, the media is now ad-free except for a few PwC pages.

Tournament executive director Brian Goin would not specify the company's cash outlay but said it is "at least mid-six figures" per year over a multiyear term.

He said the tournament wants to cultivate two such sponsors to be intimately associated with the event, which — like golf's four majors — does not have a title sponsor and won't ever, according to Goin. The event is owned and operated by the PGA Tour.

The Players Championship is 31 years old, and Goin said organizers feel it now has the stature to attract a pair of long-term non-title sponsors that can benefit from being known as the event's top sponsors. He would not say whether a second such sponsorship is imminent.

Several other companies have stepped up their involvement with the event this year. PGA Tour sponsors Charles Schwab and Buick have taken large hospitality roles, with tents. Goin said tent prices start at $60,000. Fidelity National Financial has also come on as a first-time hospitality sponsor.

For Buick, the buy gives it a hospitality presence again at a PGA Tour event in the Southeast. It ceased being title sponsor of the Buick Challenge in Pine Mountain, Ga., after the 2002 season.

The tournament has grown financially in the past several years, giving $2 million to charity last year, up from $1.3 million in 2000. PGA Tour events are run as nonprofits and give earnings to charity. Goin said the event now sells 75 skyboxes that range from $24,000 to $40,000, up from 55 in 2000. And it sells 24 tents, up from 17. It had the highest purse of any event last year, $6.5 million.

In addition to its print media sponsorship and its hospitality venues at the 18th green, the 17th green, the 8th green and the junction of the 11th and 15th holes, PricewaterhouseCoopers will be involved in several events during tournament week, including an executive forum and corporate luncheon on Wednesday in support of the First Tee, a golf outreach initiative of the World Golf Foundation. Seven college freshmen who have won First Tee scholarships will attend the event.

Adrian Ornik, PricewaterhouseCoopers' director of U.S. markets, did not return a request for comment. PricewaterhouseCoopers is in its eighth year as the "official professional services firm" of the PGA Tour.

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