SBJ/January 2-8, 2012/Research and Ratings

New sponsors register quickly with golf fans

The PGA Tour’s newest corporate partners have quickly become embedded in the minds of the sport’s fans, according to the results of a Turnkey Intelligence sponsor-awareness study conducted exclusively for SportsBusiness Journal and SportsBusiness Daily.

As for the companies that those sponsors replaced, they’ve seen dramatic declines in recognition by fans.

In the five years that SportsBusiness Journal/Daily and Turnkey have been fielding fan loyalty studies about leagues and their sponsors, the data has showed that when a brand steps in to replace a league’s longtime partner in a category, the tenured brand tends to benefit from a “comet tail” effect: Fans still associate that brand’s name with the sport even after it’s departed.

United Airlines and InterContinental Hotels Group, home to the Crowne Plaza brand, became PGA Tour sponsors and  jumped atop recognition surveys in their categories.
Not so with the PGA Tour.

In October 2010, United Airlines completed its acquisition of Continental Airlines, creating United Continental Holdings. Two months later, the company signed a five-year deal for United to replace Delta as the official airline of the PGA Tour, Champions Tour and Nationwide Tour, a designation Delta had held for the previous quarter of a century.

In our sponsor loyalty study of the PGA Tour for 2011, 16.6 percent of the 400 PGA Tour fans surveyed identified United as the tour’s official airline. That marked a year-over-year increase of 8.2 percentage points, trailing only FedEx (up 8.4 points) for biggest improvement among the 84 brands measured in the survey. Conversely, Delta saw its numbers plummet by 11.5 percentage points compared with 2010, the biggest such drop of any brand in the study.

United in 2011 sponsored the Top Holes of the PGA Tour Getaway, a fan sweepstakes in which the grand prize was five separate three-day/two-night trips for two to the winner’s choice of five of the courses that contain the top 25 holes on the tour, the opportunity to play up to two rounds of golf at those courses and one full set of custom-fit Callaway golf clubs. Each of the five trips included round-trip air transportation via United, accommodations and use of rental car — for an estimated value of $15,000.

United also sponsored men’s professional golf events in markets where the merged airline has hubs: Houston (Shell Houston Open), Chicago (BMW Championship), Cleveland (World Golf Championships: Bridgestone Invitational), Newark (The Barclays), Los Angeles (Northern Trust Open) and San Francisco (Charles Schwab Cup Championship).

The tour also had a sponsor change in its hospitality category in 2011, as InterContinental Hotels Group ended Starwood Hotels and Resorts’ 10-year run as the official hotel of the PGA Tour, Champions Tour and Nationwide Tour. IHG signed on to promote its Crowne Plaza brand, which already had been the title sponsor of the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas, since 2007.

Before the 2010 season, the company reportedly had been considering opting out of the final two years of its deal, an agreement that called for Crowne Plaza to spend roughly $7 million a year on sponsorship and media commitments for its title sponsorship of the tournament. Instead, IHG has increased its golf commitment by signing a tour-level deal and renewing its Colonial sponsorship, each through 2015.

Crowne Plaza in 2011 saw its overall recognition rate improve by 6.7 percentage points, trailing only FedEx and United among PGA Tour sponsors. Starwood’s fan recognition rate, on the other hand, dropped 5.9 percentage points among all brands measured, the second-largest decline among all brands measured in the study.

Nearly 60 percent of PGA Tour fans correctly identified FedEx as the tour’s official shipping company, making it one of the most recognized corporate partnerships in sports. Among the similar fan studies conducted since 2007 of other sports properties, only Gatorade’s partnership with the NFL has a higher recognition rate (61.8 percent in our 2011 NFL study). FedEx has title sponsored the tour’s seasonlong playoff points system for the past five seasons; Gatorade has been an NFL partner since 1983.


For this project, Turnkey Sports & Entertainment, through its Turnkey Intelligence operation, conducted national consumer research surveys among a sample of more than 400 members of the Toluna Online panel who were at least 18 years old.

The 2011 survey was conducted Sept. 26-30, a five-day period immediately following the last FedEx Cup playoff event, the Tour Championship by Coca-Cola. The 2010 survey was fielded Sept. 7-24.

Respondents were screened and analyzed based on their general avidity levels. Fans categorized as “avid” were those who responded “4” or “5” to the question “How big a fan are you of the PGA Tour?”, claimed to “look up scores several times a week or more often,” “watch/listen/attend at least 11 tournaments per season” and “have a favorite player.” Fans categorized as “casual” responded “3” to the same initial question, then claimed to “look up scores several times a month or more often,” “watch/listen/attend at least 3 tournaments per season” and “have a favorite player.”

When asked to identify official sponsors, respondents selected from a field of companies and brands that was provided to them for each business sector. Only the top-scoring companies and brands are listed in the results published here.

The percentage responses listed have been rounded. The margin of error for each survey is +/- 4.9 percentage points.

Are you more or less likely to consider trying a product/service if that product/service is an official sponsor of the PGA Tour?
  2011 2010 2009   2011 2010 2009
More likely 66.7% 57.1% 59.9%   43.5% 35.7% 39.8%
Unaffected or less likely 33.3% 42.9% 40.1%   56.5% 64.3% 60.2%
Are you more or less likely to regularly consume a product/service if that product/ service is an official sponsor of the PGA Tour?
  2011 2010 2009   2011 2010 2009
More likely 65.7% 55.6% 49.6%   43.5% 34.7% 34.6%
Unaffected or less likely 34.3% 44.4% 50.4%   56.5% 65.3% 65.4%
Are you more or less likely to recommend a product/service to a friend or family member if that product/service is an official sponsor of the PGA Tour?
  2011 2010 2009   2011 2010 2009
More likely 66.2% 55.6% 54.5%   44.5% 37.7% 34.0%
Unaffected or less likely 33.8% 44.4% 45.5%   55.5% 62.3% 66.0%
Are you more or less likely to consciously support a company by purchasing its products/ services if the company is an official sponsor of the PGA Tour?
  2011 2010 2009   2011 2010 2009
More likely 67.7% 61.0% NA   46.5% 36.7% NA
Unaffected or less likely 32.3% 39.0% NA   53.5% 63.3% NA

NA: Not applicable; question was not asked in the survey for 2008.

The survey was not conducted in 2009.

SOFT DRINK 2011 2010 2008   2011 2010 2008
Coca-Cola* 37.9% 41.0% 41.0% 33.0% 28.6% 35.4%
Pepsi 18.2% 16.6% 18.0%   18.5% 11.1% 16.0%
Dr Pepper 4.0% 3.9% 4.1%   4.0% 5.5% 4.4%
I’m not sure 27.3% 29.8% 28.8%   37.0% 46.7% 36.4%

Coca-Cola, a tour sponsor since 2002, completed the first year of a six-year renewal that runs through 2016. The beverage company and the tour in June unveiled a new name and logo for the final FedEx Cup playoffs event: the Tour Championship by Coca-Cola. NBC’s coverage of the event’s final round in 2011 drew 1.97 million viewers, up 37 percent over 2010. Pepsi, a PGA of America sponsor, ran the Refresh Your Summer sweepstakes that offered a chance to win one of 14 grand prizes, including a trip to the PGA Championship.

SPORTS/ENERGY DRINK 2011 2010 2008   2011 2010 2008
Gatorade 38.9% 36.6% 44.1% 32.5% 27.6% 35.0%
Powerade* 8.6% 6.8% 8.1%   9.0% 6.0% 10.7%
Red Bull 7.6% 9.8% 6.3%   6.5% 7.0% 2.9%
I’m not sure 31.8% 33.7% 29.3%   39.5% 48.7% 37.9%

Coca-Cola’s Powerade brand has the official rights in this category but has seen little activation in pro golf. Competitor Gatorade, meanwhile, is the official sports drink of the PGA of America, the organization that operates the PGA Championship and the Ryder Cup. It also featured Tiger Woods as an endorser until December 2009.

BEER 2011 2010 2008   2011 2010 2008
Anheuser-Busch (Michelob Ultra, O’Doul’s)* 28.3% 24.9% 30.9%   27.5% 25.1% 33.7%
Miller 10.6% 15.1% 12.5%   12.5% 10.1% 13.3%
Coors 14.1% 9.3% 12.2%   7.5% 5.5% 8.0%
Heineken 7.6% 8.3% 9.8%   5.0% 6.5% 8.4%
I’m not sure 26.3% 36.1% 21.4%   40.5% 46.2% 27.7%

An official marketing partner of the PGA Tour since 1994, Anheuser-Busch renewed its deal in 2010 for three years. A-B’s Michelob Ultra brand teamed with another tour sponsor, Bridgestone, for a Father’s Day promotion called The Golfer’s Ultimate 6-Pack. The package featured five Michelob Ultra Slimline cans and a three-ball sleeve of Bridgestone e6 golf balls. Both sponsors promoted the deal on their websites and through social media, including Facebook and Twitter. In addition, Michelob Ultra’s Ultra Foursome Sweepstakes gave the grand-prize winner a trip for four to four golf courses in the United States along with a kickoff party, $25,000 cash and other benefits worth a total prize value of $125,000. Contestants could enter the sweepstakes through Michelob Ultra’s Facebook page or by text message.

CREDIT CARD 2011 2010 2008   2011 2010 2008
American Express 20.7% 24.4% 36.0% 30.5% 26.1% 31.6%
MasterCard* 30.3% 27.3% 17.1%   20.5% 21.6% 20.9%
Visa 21.7% 24.4% 13.5%   14.0% 16.6% 9.2%
I’m not sure 20.2% 18.5% 17.1%   27.0% 33.2% 25.7%

MasterCard last year added the British Open to its portfolio of golf sponsorships, which includes the PGA Tour and European Tour. The company launched new ads around its presenting sponsorship of the Arnold Palmer Invitational in Orlando in March, featuring Tom Watson, Camilo Villegas, Ian Poulter and Graeme McDowell promoting its PGA Tour Player Experience packages. Those offerings give MasterCard cardholders a chance to play rounds of golf at the private courses in the tour’s TPC network. American Express, however, scored the most recognition among all fans in this category again last year. Its recognition score among avid fans remained below MasterCard’s mark, but its margin ahead of MasterCard among casual fans increased. AmEx is the official credit card of the PGA of America as well as the U.S. Golf Association.

AIRLINE 2011 2010 2008   2011 2010 2008
United* 17.7% 8.8% 6.8% 15.5% 8.0% 6.3%
Southwest 16.2% 4.9% 8.1%   10.5% 8.0% 4.9%
American 10.6% 12.2% 17.1%   13.0% 13.6% 16.0%
Delta 9.1% 21.5% 17.1%   6.5% 17.1% 14.6%
I’m not sure 31.8% 38.1% 38.3%   43.5% 44.2% 48.5%

United Continental Holdings, the merged company of the former United and Continental airlines, agreed to a five-year deal in December 2010 for United to replace Delta as the official airline of the PGA Tour, Champions Tour and Nationwide Tour. Delta had served in the official sponsor capacity for the tours for the previous 25 years. With the new deal in place, PGA, Nationwide and Champions tour players have free access to United’s Red Carpet Clubs and Continental’s Presidents Clubs, and they receive elite status in frequent-flier programs for both airlines. Also, frequent fliers of the airlines can earn special access at select tour events to players and hospitality areas.

SHIPPING 2011 2010 2008   2011 2010 2008
FedEx* 62.6% 58.1% NA 56.5% 44.2% NA
UPS 11.6% 13.2% NA   9.5% 15.1% NA
DHL 5.6% 4.4% NA   3.5% 1.5% NA
U.S. Postal Service 4.0% 5.9% NA   2.0% 2.5% NA
I’m not sure 15.2% 18.5% NA   28.5% 33.7% NA

In its fifth season as sponsor of the seasonlong playoff points system, FedEx scored the highest recognition marks from fans of any sponsor in the survey. Its scores for 2011 were higher than 2010, as well. FedEx last year produced TV, print and online ads promoting a better golfing experience to PGA fans with its pack-and-ship service for golf clubs. The company also wrapped delivery trucks with the images of PGA Tour players in the four FedEx Cup playoffs markets, and it returned as title sponsor of the tour’s St. Jude Classic event in Memphis, the company’s home base. European Tour sponsor UPS, meanwhile, launched a golf-related website and features Lee Westwood, Louis Oosthuizen and Jeev Milka Singh as ambassadors.

INSURANCE 2011 2010 2008   2011 2010 2008
Travelers* 18.2% 15.6% NA 12.5% 9.1% NA
Nationwide* 16.2% 16.1% NA   12.5% 11.1% NA
State Farm 12.6% 11.2% NA   8.5% 5.0% NA
Geico 10.1% 9.8% NA   9.0% 10.6% NA
Allstate 8.1% 9.3% NA   8.0% 9.1% NA
I’m not sure 25.3% 31.2% NA   39.5% 47.7% NA

Travelers, the official property casualty insurance provider of the PGA Tour, became title sponsor of the tour’s Travelers Championship event in 2007 and has been a sponsor of that Connecticut-based event each year since its inception in 1952. The tourney was named the PGA Tour’s Most Fan-Friendly Event in 2010 and was recognized as having the tour’s Best Title Sponsor Integration in 2009 and 2010. As for Nationwide, it will end its title sponsorship of the PGA Tour’s developmental tour at the conclusion of the 2012 season. It’s had that role since 2003.

HOTEL 2011 2010 2008   2011 2010 2008
Crowne Plaza* 15.2% 11.2% NA 17.5% 8.0% NA
Hilton 13.6% 11.7% NA   9.0% 10.6% NA
Wyndham 12.1% 9.8% NA   6.5% 5.5% NA
Holiday Inn* 9.1% 6.3% NA   6.5% 4.5% NA
Best Western 5.6% 4.9% NA   4.5% 4.0% NA
  I’m not sure 35.9% 42.9% NA   50.5% 53.3% NA

InterContinental Hotels Group signed on starting in 2011 as the tour’s official hotel and resort partner. IHG brand Crowne Plaza, title sponsor of the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial in Texas since 2007, renewed that deal through 2015. For the year, Crowne Plaza and sister brand Holiday Inn both received gains in recognition from avid and casual fans in the survey.

AUTOMOTIVE 2011 2010 2008   2011 2010 2008
General Motors 28.3% 31.7% 35.0% 27.0% 29.7% 41.7%
Chrysler 11.6% 7.3% 13.2%   11.0% 8.0% 14.5%
Toyota 12.6% 9.8% 5.6%   8.0% 4.5% 4.7%
Ford 8.6% 9.8% 12.5%   7.0% 5.5% 6.8%
I’m not sure 26.3% 34.6% 13.2%   41.0% 45.2% 24.3%

The automotive category has been vacant since the end of the 2009 season, when GM-brand Buick terminated its tour business — including its league-level deal, multiple event title sponsorships and its partnership with Tiger Woods. Buick had been the longest-running PGA Tour sponsor before that, dating to 1958. Beginning in 2011, Hyundai agreed to a three-year deal to title sponsor the tour’s season-opening tournament in Hawaii, and GM’s Cadillac signed a six-year deal to title-sponsor the World Golf Championships event in Florida in March. Lexus, a division of Toyota, added Jason Day, No. 8 in the world golf rankings in mid-December, to its stable of endorsers beginning at the 2011 U.S. Open.

TELECOMMUNICATIONS 2011 2010 2008   2011 2010 2008
AT&T 28.8% 26.8% 35.1% 17.0% 14.6% 27.7%
Verizon 17.7% 14.2% 8.6%   20.0% 15.1% 13.1%
Sprint 10.1% 10.7% 14.0%   11.0% 9.6% 9.7%
T-Mobile 9.1% 5.4% 5.0%   5.0% 8.0% 6.3%

This category is open at the tour level, but the AT&T National, hosted by Tiger Woods, participated in the PGA Tour’s mobile-device testing effort in 2011. That initiative allowed fans to carry mobile devices and use them in select areas on the golf course, including two AT&T Calling Zones.

QUICK-SERVICE RESTAURANT 2011 2010 2008   2011 2010 2008
Subway 21.2% 14.2% 11.4% 21.0% 13.1% 8.0%
McDonald’s 13.1% 13.2% 10.3%   5.5% 4.5% 6.5%
Wendy’s 7.1% 4.4% 5.5%   5.5% 3.5% 5.4%
Chick-fil-A 5.6% 5.4% 6.1%   6.5% 6.0% 4.0%
Burger King 4.0% 6.3% 10.8%   1.5% 2.5% 8.3%
I’m not sure 42.9% 49.3% 21.5%   56.0% 64.8% 45.7%

Subway continues to gain in recognition among PGA Tour fans in the quick-service restaurant category, where the tour doesn’t have an official sponsor. Wendy’s has sponsored the Wendy’s 3-Tour Challenge, which benefits adoption efforts, since 1992. In February, Morton’s signed its first official leaguewide sports partnership, becoming the official steakhouse of the PGA Tour, Champions Tour and Nationwide Tour.

BANK 2011 2010 2008   2011 2010 2008
Bank of America 18.2% 20.0% NA 17.0% 20.1% NA
Wells Fargo 11.6% 3.4% NA   10.5% 4.0% NA
JPMorgan Chase 9.1% 8.8% NA   6.5% 7.0% NA
Citibank 5.6% 9.8% NA   9.5% 6.0% NA
HSBC 8.1% 7.3% NA   2.5% 1.0% NA
I’m not sure 35.4% 41.5% NA   47.5% 54.8% NA

In an open category for the tour, Bank of America has nearly twice the recognition among fans of any of its competitors. Wells Fargo in 2011 put its name back on the Charlotte event after a two-year hiatus, rebranding the Quail Hollow Championship as the Wells Fargo Championship. Wells Fargo originally changed the tournament’s name after buying rival Wachovia in 2008. Financial institutions Barclays, Deutsche Bank, Northern Trust and RBC are all title sponsors of individual PGA Tour events.

* Official PGA Tour sponsor
NA: Not applicable; fans were not asked about their awareness of sponsors in this category for the 2008 survey.

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