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

Chicken processor helps tournament stay roosted in Mississippi

Joe Sanderson figures the state of Mississippi has been pretty good to him and the company that bears his family’s name. So he’s negotiated a deal for Sanderson Farms, a chicken processor with annual sales of $2.4 billion, to title sponsor the PGA Tour event in Madison, Miss.

“This tournament’s been around for more than 40 years,” said Sanderson, chairman and CEO of Sanderson Farms since 1989. “I want to make sure the tournament stays in Mississippi.”

Much of the traditional marketing logic for title-sponsoring a PGA Tour event doesn’t really apply to Sanderson Farms,
The tournament had been without a title sponsor since Viking departed after the 2011 event.
Photo: AP IMAGES
whose target audience is women age 25-65, the people who make the food-buying decisions in most households. For Sanderson, the decision was about protecting a valuable asset in his backyard.

Sanderson Farms is based in Laurel, Miss., about an hour from where the tournament is held. The July event has been called the True South Classic since Viking departed as title sponsor after the 2011 tournament.

The new name this year will be the Sanderson Farms Championship and for the third year it will be played opposite the British Open after spending several years in the fall portion of the schedule.

Sanderson Farms agreed to a one-year deal and the company would not reveal the price, but opposite-field events on Golf Channel typically go for the low seven figures. Sanderson said the title sponsorship is easily the largest marketing deal it has ever signed. The company will evaluate the sponsorship after the first year and then decide whether to invest in a longer term, he said.

“For us, it’s not so much about the advertising,” said Sanderson, whose grandfather founded the business first as a feed-and-seed store 65 years ago before entering the chicken processing business in the 1960s. “It’s much more about making sure the tournament stays in Mississippi. We like the PGA Tour and we like the philanthropy it represents. It means a lot that they support the children’s hospital [at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson]. … We will advertise, but it will be more of a public relations message about our company.”

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