SBJ/January 7-13, 2013/In Depth

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  • The view from the links

    PGA Tour tournament directors have seen it all: Players locked inside the gates at night because they were fishing; drunk spectators; an earthquake and an approaching hurricane in the same week; runaway golf carts; and all sorts of animals — from bears to gators — making tracks across the golf course.

    But the problems that keep tournament directors awake at night are familiar to most event managers. It’s things like parking, keeping sponsors happy, and attracting the best field of golfers possible. As Steve Timms, the director of the Shell Houston Open said, “We are on the front lines of the presentation of the PGA Tour brand.”

    With that in mind, SportsBusiness Journal surveyed all of the tournament directors of the PGA Tour last month to find out what issues occupy their thoughts and what the tour could do better.

    Our survey went to all of the PGA Tour tournament directors and provided insight into what it takes to stage a successful event.
    Photo by: Getty Images
    A couple of themes emerged. Foremost is their concern over the quality of their field. Throughout the responses, tournament directors expressed concern over their ability to attract the best golfers in the world to their event. And even if some of the world’s top-ranked golfers eventually commit, it’s typically too late to promote their appearance for ticket and sponsorship sales.

    “It’s like you’re a concert promoter, but you cannot tell the ticket purchaser what band is going to be on stage,” said Clair Peterson, a 10-year director of the John Deere Classic and currently chairman of the PGA Tour’s tournament advisory committee. “You know whoever is on stage will put on a great show, but it’s a bit of a tough sell. You don’t know until literally days before the event who will be on stage. That leaves a gap in our ability to explain to fans why they should be there.”

    Scheduling is a topic that has generated tons of debate across the tour. Because players are independent contractors, the tour can’t tell them when or where to play.

    It’s been suggested that the tour adopt a policy that forces a golfer to play each event at least once in a four-year cycle. But such a policy has never made it past the tour’s policy board.

    “Which golfers are coming to the tournament is a topic that’s discussed continually with the title sponsor and, really, all of the major sponsors,” Timms said.

    In Peterson’s 10 years running the John Deere Classic, “I can’t think of a time when it wasn’t a big issue,” he said. “It’d be great to explain to sponsors that at least once every four or five years that you’re going to see everybody come through at some point.”

    Tournament directors also are confronted with the task of selling sponsorships with a crew that’s often lean. Of the directors surveyed, 46 percent said they operate with a sales team of one full-time person and an additional 24 percent have a team of two sales executives. Then again, they’re selling mostly for a single event and often the tour sales team signs the title sponsor.

    “That’s an area where the tour is hyper-focused,” the tour’s executive vice president and chief of operations, Andy Pazder, said of building sales staffs at each tournament. “We identified that five years ago as an area of weakness in our structure and we’re working with host organizations to develop professional sales staffs.”

    Many of the directors (38 percent) say they spend 41 percent to 60 percent of their time selling sponsorships. Five directors (14 percent) said they spend 81 percent to 100 percent of their time cultivating sponsors.

    Most directors, however, are pleased with their title sponsor — 56 percent said their title sponsor is outstanding.
    However, 26 percent of the directors said they would like to see their title sponsor do more with the event.

    Most directors said they judge their title sponsor’s level of engagement by how many of the company’s top executives attend the tournament.

    If there’s one issue that directors don’t agree on, it’s how to use their player exemptions. When asked if they would give an exemption to a female golfer, 19 directors said “no,” while 18 said “yes.”

    Peterson’s John Deere Classic is one of the two tournaments that has granted such an exemption. Michelle Wie played the 2005 John Deere on an exemption.

    “Obviously, you know our feeling about inviting a woman to play. We’ve done it,” Peterson said. “When you think about using an exemption, you think of someone who adds more spectators, more excitement and more revenue. With Michelle, that was check, check, check. We filled the place.”



















    About the survey

    The survey of PGA Tour tournament directors drew a response from 40 of the 45 directors who were eligible to participate. Not every director answered every question, but most of them participated fully and they did so knowing that their individual answers would be kept confidential.

    SportsBusiness Journal worked with Turnkey Sports & Entertainment to set up the survey. The PGA Tour and the Tournament Advisory Council jointly endorsed the project and helped promote the effort, but have not seen the results until this issue.

    Directors had a two-week window to complete the survey from late November to early December. The survey was conducted online through a site managed by Turnkey.

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  • Survey results: Tournament operations

    ■ How many tournaments do you attend per year to recruit players?
    0.....................13%

    1-2................... 8%
    3-4................. 35%
    5-6................. 35%
    7-8................... 8%
    More than 8..... 3%
    Responses: 40

    ■ How large is your volunteer base?

    Volunteers update the main scoreboard at the Waste Management Phoenix Open.
    Photo by: Getty Images

    Fewer than 500................ 5%
    500-750........................... 5%
    751-1,000...................... 15%
    1,001-1,250................... 15%
    1,251-1,500................... 25%
    1,501-2,000................... 25%
    More than 2,000............ 10%
    Responses: 40

    ■ How many speaking engagements do you do per year to promote your tournament?
    1-5......................... 15%
    6-10....................... 35%
    11-15..................... 28%
    16-20..................... 15%
    More than 20........... 8%
    Responses: 40

    ■ How many charities does your tournament support?
    1-10......................... 23%
    11-25....................... 20%
    26-40....................... 10%
    41-60......................... 3%
    More than 60........... 45%
    Responses: 40

    ■ What is your biggest competition in the marketplace for attendance and sponsorship?
    Professional team.....................................................................39%
    No major competition, we’re the biggest event in town..........10%
    College athletics program......................................................... 8%
    Cultural or non-sports event (state fair).................................... 8%
    Tourist attractions...................................................................... 5%
    Another golf tournament........................................................... 3%
    Local arts................................................................................... 3%
    Other........................................................................................ 26%
    Responses: 39
    Comments by respondents:
    — Scores of summer festivals
    — All of the above
    — Any of the outdoor activities in Southern California


    ■ What worries you the most about your tournament?
    Sponsorship sales.................... 49%
    Strength of field....................... 49%
    Weather.................................... 39%
    Attendance............................... 26%
    TV ratings................................ 26%
    Hospitality sale.........................18%
    Condition of the golf course.... 10%
    Media coverage......................... 8%
    Note: Respondents could make three selections.
    Responses: 39
    Comments by respondents:
    — Less corporate spending
    — Strength of the economy; another downturn
    — As the majors, WGC and other international events grow, will all of the other tournaments face a decline in stature and relevance?


    ■ What are your top logistical concerns?
    Parking................................ 84%
    Player safety........................ 77%
    Sponsor services.................. 73%
    Shuttles.................................60%
    Players’ families.................. 50%
    Food and beverage............... 50%
    Crowd safety........................ 47%
    Note: Respondents were asked to rank their top seven logistical concerns. The figures shown reflect the percentages that fell within the top two of the overall rankings.
    Responses: 37

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  • Survey results: Sponsorship

    Rate your title sponsor’s level of involvement and activation.
    Outstanding. My title sponsor is the envy of every other tournament................... 56%
    Good. They usually activate more than they’re required to................................... 18%
    Solid. My title sponsor does everything they’re expected to, but I wish they’d
    do more................................................................................................................... 10%
    Lacking. My title sponsor underactivates their sponsorship, and there’s little
    to no emphasis on local activation...........................................................................15%
    Responses: 39

    Photo by: Getty Images






















    Which of these outcomes best demonstrates that a sponsor has been fully committed to activating the sponsorship?

    Attendance by the top executives of the title sponsor.............. 65%
    Attendance by the title sponsor’s invited guests...................... 49%
    Solid investment in hospitality................................................. 32%
    Contributing to the operations of the tournament.................... 24%
    New business generated for sponsor........................................ 22%
    Pro-am involvement................................................................. 22%
    Pre-tournament promotions...................................................... 19%
    Solid investment in advertising................................................ 19%
    Note: Respondents could make three selections.
    Responses: 37
    Comments by respondents:
    — I also look at the proper dedication of human resources toward the effort in a timely manner.
    — Assets committed to the tournament and a year-round [use] of the tournament property to meet objectives.

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  • Survey results: Most-admired tournaments

    What other PGA Tour event do you admire the most?

    The Wells Fargo Championship in Charlotte received the most mentions (7), followed by the Waste Management Phoenix Open and the Players Championship in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. Here are some of the comments:

    Wells Fargo Championship
    — Great course, great facility owner, great field.
    — Industry leader.
    — Tremendous business connections through their members, and money is no object.
    — The strategy implemented from the moment the host organization was established resulted in an extremely well-engaged community at all levels. The presentation, attention to detail, high quality level of experience provided for all constituents, from players, caddies, corporate partners, general-admission ticket holders, etc., is second to none.
    — Great balance of tradition and hospitality.
    — Local market penetration.


    Waste Management Phoenix Open
    — Community involvement.
    — I admire the connection they have built with the community. It has always been a must-do that time of year. Getting 500,000 [total attendance] is unbelievable.
    — Host organization fundraising capability.
    — Do a great job in generating attendance, sponsorships and charitable dollars without some of the game’s biggest stars being in the field.


    Players Championship
    — Scale of size and quality of the event.
    — Activation of the community.
    — I like what it has grown into, the bigness of it and the facility.
    — Attention to detail in every area.

    Wells Fargo Championship
    Photo by: Getty Images

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  • Survey results: Players

    What influences a top player’s schedule the most?
    Date....................... 89%
    Golf course............ 89%
    City........................ 27%
    Purse...................... 22%
    Sponsor.................. 11%
    Family.................... 11%
    Note: Respondents could make three selections.
    Responses: 37
    Comments by respondents:
    — FedEx Cup points.
    — The sequence of events leading up to the tournament.
    — Tradition of a tournament.
    — If a player is top 50 in the world golf rankings, he is eligible to compete in certain events and that can change the scheduling because of the ability to grow new and current sponsor dollars.
    — The agent can also play a large part in scheduling.


    What factors most influence how you distribute sponsor exemptions?
    Young player with strong potential.............................................. 68%
    Player with local ties.................................................................... 54%
    Player with name value and recognition...................................... 38%
    Veteran player who has supported tournament in the past........... 32%
    Past champion.............................................................................. 22%
    Sponsor connection...................................................................... 19%
    Note: Respondents could make three selections.
    Responses: 37
    Comments by respondents:
    — Primarily, it should be based on the merits of the player’s game.
    — Official world golf rankings.


    Who are the most marketable players on the PGA Tour?

    The dream field for any tournament director would include Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods.
    Photo by: Getty Images

    Tiger Woods................. 92%
    Rory McIlroy................ 89%
    Phil Mickelson............. 62%
    Rickie Fowler............... 24%
    Bubba Watson.............. 22%
    Note: Respondents could make three selections. Only top responses are shown.
    Responses: 37

    Which golfers under age 30 are the most marketable?
    Rory McIlroy............... 97%
    Rickie Fowler.............. 92%
    Dustin Johnson............ 41%
    Keegan Bradley........... 38%
    Webb Simpson............. 16%
    Note: Respondents could make three selections. Only top responses are shown.
    Responses: 37

    Which retired (or semi-retired) golfer would you most like to use in a promotion or ad?
    Arnold Palmer............... 46%
    Jack Nicklaus................ 27%
    Greg Norman................ 14%
    David Feherty................ 11%
    Note: Only top responses shown.
    Responses: 37

    Which golfer would you most want to have as a pro-am partner for a fun day on the golf course?
    Graeme McDowell................. 11%
    Rory McIlroy.......................... 11%
    Fred Couples............................ 9%
    Fuzzy Zoeller........................... 9%
    Note: Only top responses shown. Tiger Woods, Zach Johnson and Lee Trevino were the only other golfers to receive multiple votes.
    Responses: 37

    What athlete/celebrity would you most like to have in your pro-am?
    Directors would like to have Bill Clinton in their pro-am.
    Photo by: Getty Images

    Bill Clinton.......................... 35%
    Bill Murray.......................... 16%
    Michael Phelps.................... 14%
    Peyton Manning.................. 11%
    Note: Only top responses shown. Tom Brady and Charles Barkley were the only others to receive multiple votes.
    Responses: 37

    Would you give a female golfer an exemption to your tournament?
    Yes........................ 49%
    No......................... 51%
    Responses: 37



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  • Survey: About the directors

         

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  • Survey results: Revenue

    Which revenue stream offers the most potential for growth?
    Tickets........................... 35%
    Sponsorship sales.......... 32%
    Hospitality sales............ 27%
    Concessions.................... 3%
    Merchandise................... 3%
    Responses: 37

    Which revenue stream is tapped out?
    Merchandise.................. 51%
    Concessions................... 16%
    Sponsorship sales........... 14%
    Tickets............................. 11%
    Hospitality sales............... 8%
    Responses: 37

    Are you currently offering your ticket buyers a print-at-home option?
    Yes................... 70%
    No.................... 30%
    Responses: 37

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  • Survey results: Media

    What type of media coverage is the most important to the fiscal success of your event?
    Local television...................................................................................................... 43%

    National media (Golf Channel, trade magazine, excluding broadcast partner)..... 30%
    Local newspaper..................................................................................................... 24%
    Local radio................................................................................................................ 3%
    Online (bloggers)...................................................................................................... 0%
    Responses: 37

    Photo by: Getty Images
    Where do you go for your main source of coverage of the PGA Tour?
    PGATour.com............................ 78%
    Golf Channel............................. 16%
    Golf Digest.................................. 3%
    Golfweek..................................... 3%
    Responses: 37

    The PGA Tour’s new schedule will …
    … create more interest in the Tour........... 46%
    … confuse fans......................................... 11%
    … make an immaterial difference............. 43%
    Responses: 37

    How many hours of televised golf do you watch per week?
    0-1................................... 14%
    2-3................................... 43%
    4-5................................... 27%
    6-8....................................14%
    More than 8...................... 3%
    Responses: 37

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  • Kudos and room for improvement

    Name an area where the PGA Tour excels in helping tournaments:
    — New initiative by the tour to objectively analyze sales efforts and action steps for improvement.
    — Player involvement. Their program that allows us to have players visit parties, tents, etc., is valuable.
    — TV negotiations.
    — Advertising and brand awareness.
    — Golf course preparation and rules administration on-site.
    — Providing sponsorship dollars from their official marketing partner relationships.
    — Scoring, stats, media, rules, running the competition of the tournament.
    — Getting home addresses for players.
    — Best practices and PGATour.com content.
    — Securing title sponsors.
    — Communicating what other tournaments are doing.
    — Sales and promotional strategies, inventory development, and consultation on staffing and organizational structure.
    — Financial benchmarking using similar market events.
    — Prize money.


    Name an area where the PGA Tour could improve:
    — Getting players to play in every event over some reasonable period of time, like once every four years.
    — Strength of field; player recruitment.
    — Year-round communication.
    — Market analysis that focuses on media and sales support.
    — Continue to encourage players to be accessible to sponsors.
    — Spreading marketing dollars from the official marketing partners among more events.
    — Getting players to commit earlier.
    — Purse increases are tapped out and meaningless; send new dollars to tournaments for operations, charity and title sponsor value.
    — Sales resources at tournament level.
    — Fully open sharing of tournament sales in all categories, like NBA’s TMBO.
    — Smaller fields.
    — Being honest and upfront on all or most changes about to take place that may or may not affect a player or tournament.
    — Customized digital sponsor ROI material.


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  • They've seen it all

    — Getting a player out of a fishing area after the gates had been locked at the end of the day. No one knew he was there.

    — At a Coke-sponsored event, a spectator said in front of a large crowd: “You don’t want to drink that stuff, it will kill you.”

    — Dealing with an earthquake and approaching hurricane in the same week.

    — Volunteer drove off a cart path and flipped a golf cart which was being used for shuttling
    players, destroying the cart and injuring himself. Thankfully, the cart was empty, other than the driver.

    — Rescuing a baby owl that fell from a tree in the middle of play, and getting it over to the local zoo.

    — Sixty people being pulled off the course for heat stroke. I thought I was in an episode of “M*A*S*H.”

    — Dog-sitting by player services while the player played a practice round.

    Photo by: Getty Images
    — Eight inches of rain in one day.

    — We had a hospitality sponsor’s brother-in-law get caught stealing salt and pepper shakers at the club. That certainly made for good conversation at the family Thanksgiving table later that year.

    — An ill-scheduled “controlled burn” that rained ashes over tournament grounds, affecting broadcast clarity and irritating the eyes of players and patrons.

    — First job as a tournament director was the week of 9/11, which occurred on Tuesday of tournament week. First time in 52 years a PGA Tour event was canceled, so going through that decision-making process was quite challenging and strange, all at the same time.

    — Monster leaderboard collapsed.

    — A golf cart on fire.

    — Snow in the middle of summer.

    — A woman claiming the dog she was carrying in her purse was in fact a service dog and should be permitted on the course.

    — Bear running in the fairway.


    — Saturday rain delay: Two girls jump in our pond and start swimming around, much to the delight of our male fans. They (the females) had to be handcuffed and taken away six minutes later.

    — Snakes.

    Source: Survey of PGA Tour tournament directors


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