SBJ/March 11-17, 2013/Marketing and Sponsorship

EverBank pulls off a buzzer-beater

It was March 1 when the PGA Tour announced that EverBank Financial would sponsor its golf tournament in Tampa Bay. That gave EverBank and the tournament’s organizers all of 13 days to prepare.

When the tournament tees off this Thursday, though, caddie bibs, tee markers and TV-visible signage will carry the EverBank marks. The entrance signage, the mesh around the bleachers and even the pin flags will all reflect EverBank’s support of the tournament at Innisbrook Resort.

What won’t be readily obvious is the flurry of activity required to prepare the tournament for its new presenting sponsor.
“In our business, you have to be flexible and you have to do it with a smile,” said Kevin Krisle, tournament director at the newly named Tampa Bay Championship presented by EverBank. “We’ve made a lot of new friends in the last week or so.”

While not one of the more prevalent brands in sports sponsorship, this isn’t new to EverBank, which has naming rights to the Jacksonville Jaguars’ stadium and a history of heavy hospitality at The Players Championship.

The Tampa sponsorship also comes on the heels of EverBank’s move into wealth management. The Jacksonsonville-based bank launched a new wealth management subsidiary last year and the tournament is considered a platform to help develop new clients.

“We’re well-equipped to mobilize the resources needed to pull this off,” EverBank President and COO Blake Wilson said. “As a company, we take pride in being nimble and flexible and opportunistic.”

Ever since the deal was done, EverBank, the tour and tournament organizers in Tampa have been on daily calls so that EverBank makes the most of its presenting sponsorship. This is a one-year deal and the tour, more than anything, wants EverBank to have a good experience and extend the relationship. Terms of the deal were not available, but presenting sponsorships run from the low to mid-seven figures.

With Wilson running point, EverBank has assembled department heads from marketing, sports marketing, events and public relations to make preparations for the tournament. The bank also has brought in executives from its primary business channels — banking, lending and investing — to coordinate the client-focused events.

In all, 350 to 400 guests will attend hospitality functions on-site and during the pro-am, the bank said.

“We actually have a pretty good base of expertise for something like this,” said Wilson, who has brought in as many as 500 guests in a week to entertain at The Players Championship, where he first struck a relationship with the tour’s marketing executives.

Such a quick turnaround is not unprecedented. EverBank’s deal brought back memories for Chuck Browning, head of sponsorship for Farmers Insurance. When Farmers signed its agreement to title sponsor the San Diego tournament at Torrey Pines, the company closed the deal just 12 days before the tournament teed off.

“It’s really important to prioritize at this point,” Browning said. “You’ve got to think about what you need first. What we did was establish a project manager, someone who had oversight of all the moving parts. … For us, what we looked at first was all of the branding, all of the media opportunities, everything that was visible. You handle the ‘must-haves’ first, and then you move on to the ‘nice-to-haves’ next.”

And despite the best planning, Browning said, be prepared for some kind of surprise. Shortly after Farmers signed its deal, its executives made a site visit to Torrey Pines. What they found was a Geico-branded trailer on the grounds of the golf course. Geico had paid for the space.

“Well, that was a hot button for us,” Browning said of the insurance competitor. “We worked out a financial arrangement to reimburse them for what they had paid [to make the trailer go away]. … You’ve just got to go see things for yourself to get to all the nitty gritty.”

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