SBJ/March 14-20, 2011/Marketing and Sponsorship

AmEx back for three more years with PGA

American Express has renewed its patron-level sponsorship with the PGA of America for three more years.

AmEx came on board with the PGA in 2006 as one of its first partners at the patron level, which is the PGA’s highest level of sponsorship. Mercedes-Benz and RBC Bank are the other two patron sponsors.

Kevin Carter, the PGA’s senior director of business development, said he is searching for a fourth patron sponsor and hopes to add one this year.

“If we could add one more, we’d probably hold off after that,” Carter said.

learning center
The American Express renewal keeps the credit card company, which is represented by sports marketing agency Wasserman Media Group, on board through 2013. Financial specifics were not available, but these sponsorships range from $3 million to $5 million a year and often require incremental media spending with the PGA’s media partners. CBS has broadcast rights for the PGA Championship.

Learning center
The PGA Learning Center presented by American Express takes the sponsorship to event sites.
The sponsorship includes access to other PGA championships throughout the year, such as the Senior PGA; Ryder Cups on U.S. soil; and access to market AmEx’s credit cards to the 28,000 golf pros represented by the PGA.

AmEx’s activation has centered on programs designed for its card members, some of which grant them access to PGA professionals. On-site activation has focused on the PGA Learning Center presented by American Express at the PGA Championship and Ryder Cup.

The Learning Center last year at Whistling Straits entertained more than 50,000 visitors the week of the PGA Championship, about 8,700 more than the previous year. Inside the center, PGA pros offer swing analysis and other tips to the fans.

“It all goes back to access for our card members,” said David Eisenberg, manager of sponsorship marketing at AmEx. “We’re able to deliver that in a variety of forms, from sports to music and entertainment. The partnership with the PGA very much helps deliver on that strategy, which is one of the main reasons we renewed.”

The Learning Center “is one of the more unique activations in golf,” Carter said.

American Express has been a U.S. Golf Association corporate partner since 2006, which gives it a presence at the U.S. Open as well. AmEx in the past has had relationships with the PGA Tour and Tiger Woods before it turned to more consumer-driven deals and activation. It still has some ties to PGA Tour events, such as the American Express Volunteer Pavilion at the Wyndham Championship in Greensboro, N.C.

“We know our card members are passionate about golf,” Eisenberg said. “Anything we can do to enhance their experience on-site means we’re delivering for the card members.”

AmEx also got behind a PGA program called “Friend of a Card Member” that allows anyone paying for a golf lesson with an AmEx card to bring a friend and get a lesson for free. Another program called “Championship Tees” enables card members to have access to courses that have previously hosted PGA or USGA championships.

AmEx also recently announced a three-year deal with the NBA.

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