SBJ/20100823/This Week's News

PGA Tour partners taking bigger swing at FedEx Cup playoffs

Even with the uncertainty surrounding Tiger Woods’ game and whether he’ll qualify for all four FedEx Cup playoff events, the PGA Tour said sponsor activity will be on par with the past few years.

Like any new platform, the playoffs, which begin this week, required sponsors to adapt in the way they activate their golf sponsorships. The recession presented an additional challenge. Still, the final four events of the FedEx Cup, located in the New York, Boston, Chicago and Atlanta markets, presented the tour’s official marketing partners with unique opportunities to go big against tournaments with marquee fields.

“A lot of partners have understood the vision and what the playoffs are meant to do,” said Rob Ohno, senior vice president, corporate marketing, at the tour. “The activation programs around the playoffs have been very good, and we’ve seen that the last few years.”

With so many partners marketing around these events, the tour has decided to move its fall sponsor forum to Atlanta during The Tour Championship presented by Coca-Cola. In the past, the tour has held two sponsor forums each year, one at the Players Championship in the spring and one after the season, typically at tour headquarters in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.

Because so many of the tour’s partners attend the Tour Championship in Atlanta, it made sense to hold the forum there. It’s an opportunity for companies to share best practices and network with others.

Among the sponsors with big plans through the playoffs are MasterCard, which has found several different ways to reward its cardholders at the golf course. Consumers who buy tickets with MasterCard receive discounts, and those who spend at least $75 in merchandise receive a free ticket to Sunday’s final round.

In conjunction with that effort, Bank of America will have designated on-site areas in the merchandise tents offering benefits for consumers who sign up for the PGA Tour MasterCard.

Title sponsor FedEx is again running its global golf sweepstakes, heavy media, and more social media through Facebook and Twitter updates from the players. Several other partners are entertaining at the events and using pre-tournament promotions to drive interest.

Delta has been running FedEx Cup in-flight entertainment and ads in its Sky magazine as well as posting brochures in the Sky Clubs.

“Brands have figured out how to ramp up activation and capitalize on the momentum going into the playoffs,” said Ed Kiernan, a senior vice president at GMR Marketing who used to lead sports marketing at Peter Jacobsen Sports. “Initially, everybody had concerns if it would work, and four years later, we’ve seen a lot of interest and success.”

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