SBJ/Dec. 6-12, 2010/This Week's Issue

Doral sponsorship puts Cadillac back in golf ‘in a big way’


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Cadillac replaces CA as title sponsor at the
WGC Doral event.

For Cadillac, it’s more about who is watching golf as opposed to how many. That was the root of Cadillac’s decision to sign a six-year agreement with the PGA Tour to title-sponsor the World Golf Championships event at Doral in March.

Don Butler, Cadillac’s vice president of marketing, made the announcement last week with the TPC Blue Monster serving as the backdrop.

“Put yourself in our shoes,” Butler said. “If you’re going to get back into golf, would you go with a soft shoe or go in a big way? You always know a Cadillac when you see it coming down the road, and with golf, this is a great way to establish our presence.”

Using golf as a platform to sell cars is nothing new to Cadillac or parent General Motors. Even when GM brands Cadillac and Buick left the sponsorship scene in 2009 as the automaker went through bankruptcy, Cadillac continued its grassroots program of golf clinics for its VIP clients.

But sponsoring Doral is a different proposition. WGC event title sponsorships cost $10 million to $12 million a year, compared with $7 million or $8 million for a standard PGA Tour event. Cadillac’s deal comes with a media buy on NBC, broadcaster of the event in south Florida, and an on-site presence and media buy at the other three WGC events — two in the United States, one in China — as the automotive sponsor.

Butler kept his future sports marketing plans close to the vest, refusing to say whether Cadillac has more plans in golf, but it’s likely that the GM brand will align itself with a golfer or multiple golfers to give it more of an on-course presence.

“All I can tell you is that golf is very important to us,” said Butler, who was not troubled by the PGA Tour’s slumping TV ratings in 2010 or Tiger Woods’ struggles on and off the course. “This was a very studied approach, and when you look at the data, there’s a high index of affluent customers both playing and watching golf. That’s why it works for us. With Doral, we know we’re getting a top-flight field and we know we’re getting good viewership.”

Doral delivered a 1.9 rating for its final round this year and a 1.3 in the third round. Those numbers were down significantly from 2009, when Doral drew a 3.4 rating for the final round and a 1.9 in the third round as Phil Mickelson won and Woods finished ninth. Woods didn’t play this year’s event, which was won by Ernie Els.

Cadillac will work with GM’s agency, R*Works, on the activation and promotional planning.

Buick will not be returning to golf, but it has looked at other sports marketing platforms for its brand, although no plans have been revealed.

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