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Volume 20 No. 42
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Viva Villegas: Sponsors flock to young golfer

Camilo Villegas is going to need a bigger shirt to carry all of these logos.

Villegas, a PGA Tour star from Colombia, has most recently been featured in an ad for State Street Global Advisors.
The PGA Tour star from Colombia with the flowing hair and the chiseled physique is attracting more than the female members of the gallery these days.

It’s hard to watch a tour event on TV without seeing Villegas, 29, pitching something.

The most recent ad to feature Villegas is a 30-second spot for State Street Global Advisors, whose SPDR brand ETF products fit nicely with Villegas’ nickname, “Spider-Man,” so called because of the way he crouches to read putts. ETF products are like mutual funds that trade throughout the day on stock exchanges.

Villegas also is in a new MasterCard ad, new TaylorMade Burner spots, and multiple PGA Tour branding spots that promote the “New Breed vs. the Establishment” and the Players Championship in May.

The guy is everywhere, including South America, where he’s front and center for Brazilian-based Itaú Bank, the 12th-largest bank in the world. Signs in the Miami airport for the bank describe Villegas as “a global Latin American.”

“As a newcomer to golf, we liked Camilo for several reasons,” said Gary MacDonald, State Street’s global head of ETF marketing. “We’re a global company and we actively market all over the world, and he’s a global figure in golf.”

Villegas’ shirt now includes Café de Colombia, a federation of coffee growers in his home country, on one side of his chest, CVS Caremark on the other, MasterCard on his collar and SPDR on his left sleeve.
TaylorMade Burner is on his hat. Villegas switched from Cobra to TaylorMade this year.

These deals plus others like Rolex, Bavaria Beer and J. Lindeberg put Villegas’ off-course earnings in the low seven figures annually, according to industry experts. The three-time PGA Tour winner made more than $3 million in prize money in 2010 and occasionally plays overseas events that pay a guaranteed appearance fee, all of which has his gross income approaching $10 million a year. He’s believed to be among the top 10 best-paid golfers in the world, industry analysts said.

“There are a lot of great players on the PGA Tour,” said Clarke Jones, senior vice president and global director of golf clients at IMG, which represents Villegas. “Camilo has done a great job of really standing out from the crowd. He’s a little different than the rest. He’s got that charisma, that flair that’s hard to define.”

The SPDR relationship was announced earlier this year, and two spots debuted last week using the brand’s tag line, “Precise in a world that isn’t.” State Street’s ad agency, The Gate Worldwide, came up with the creative.

SPDR’s yearlong ad buy on NBC’s golf broadcasts came about from a collaboration between the financial services firm and the tour.

SPDR’s parent company, State Street, also has a sponsorship with the Deutsche Bank Championship in Boston and a deal with the Big East Conference basketball tournament in New York, but this is the first time the SPDR ETF products have been marketed through golf. MacDonald said his company is working with tour events to buy hospitality packages this season as well. The multiyear agreement with Villegas indicates that SPDR will be around for a while.

“It’s a great fit for State Street,” said Jay Monahan, the tour’s senior vice president of business development. “We really encourage companies to invest in tour media and activate with [the players]. The Spider funds made for a natural connection.”

The tour is best known for selling title sponsorships and official marketing partnerships, but driving business to media partners and the players is the “third leg of what we do,” Monahan said.