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Volume 21 No. 1
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PGA Tour targets women through business forums

Editor's note: This story is revised from the print edition.

A pharmaceutical company making its first sports-related investment will sponsor a series of “Women’s Day” forums across several PGA Tour events.

The daylong executive events will typically be held on Tuesday of tournament week inside the clubhouse and the list of speakers will include a who’s who of female business leaders in the market where the tournament is being held. It’s the tour’s most dedicated effort yet in seeking to attract a larger female audience to its tournaments.

Astellas Pharma, a company based in Tokyo with a U.S. subsidiary in Chicago, has signed a multiyear contract to be the umbrella sponsor for all of the Women’s Day events across the tour. Seventeen are planned for this year with more to be added in 2014 and 2015. Terms of the deal were not available.

“This is a whole new level of involvement and a whole new type of umbrella sponsor for the tour,” said Donna Fiedorowicz, the tour’s senior vice president of a new division, tournament activation and outreach.

Fiedorowicz, a tour veteran who formerly oversaw tournament business affairs, now directs the new division, which will coordinate the Women’s Day forums.

“Astellas is the first of four umbrella sponsors we hope to have in areas that will help tournaments grow deeper into their local community and draw a different demographic than they might usually draw,” Fiedorowicz said.

The tour will launch the first Astellas women’s forum at the Honda Classic in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., on Feb. 26.

The play for Astellas is to bring more of a women’s health focus to the events. In addition to leading female executives from the area, health care experts and panelists will speak to the group on professional and health-related topics.

“We’ve been searching for the right partnership, really, for a few years,” said Jim Robinson, senior vice president of sales and marketing at Astellas. “We haven’t really been in a sports partnership before, but this is a perfect way to reach women, who are the primary health and wellness decision-makers in the house. This is certainly our most comprehensive effort.”

With the PGA Tour nearly sold out of its tournament sponsorships, the Women’s Day platform fills another need. The tour went into 2013 looking for ways to create new sponsorship inventory, and a seasonlong platform of Women’s Day forums falls in line with the tour’s desire to build its female followers, while also attracting new money to the game.

Women’s Day forums will be produced jointly by the tour and the local tournament, with input from Astellas. Fiedorowicz’s team will work with the local organizers to identify leading female executives in the market. Then, through word-of-mouth referrals, the tour will build a base of influential women in the area to invite as guest speakers and panelists.

Fiedorowicz said attendance at these events will be 150 to

The PGA Tour tested the Women’s Day concept at eight stops last year, including The Players Championship (top) and the Tour Championship (above). All sold out.
250. Tables of 10 will sell for $1,500.

The morning will mostly be a series of speakers and panel discussions on a variety of issues that could range from running a small business to health and family challenges women face as wives and mothers.

After lunch, the women will go on a behind-the-scenes tour of the tournament site and the day will close with a networking reception at the clubhouse. The tour provides valet parking for the guests.

“Everything is first class, the way senior executives should be treated,” Fiedorowicz said.

The PGA Tour tested the Women’s Day concept at eight tournaments last year and each one sold out quickly, Fiedorowicz said, leading the tour to believe that the program should be expanded and sponsored. At the Tour Championship presented by Coca-Cola, for example, former Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin and Bea Perez, Coke’s chief sustainability officer, were among the Atlanta-area speakers.

Through the testing last year, the tour discovered that 70 percent of the women who attended these forums had never been to a PGA Tour event before. When they buy tables to the forum, their package also includes tickets to the tournament.

Before the tour got to the testing stage last year, there was a sense that it needed to be doing more to connect women to the events and brands that sponsor the events. Fiedorowicz remembers walking through the Viking Classic in Mississippi about five years ago and seeing a line of women waiting to enter a large tent. Inside the tent, Viking was demonstrating a line of its appliances to the mostly female audience that congregated around the makeshift kitchen.

“I just remember, thinking back then, that we could really be onto something,” Fiedorowicz said.

In 2010, the Open initiated a women’s forum called “Breaking the Glass Ceiling” that brought close to 300 female executives to the tournament just outside of San Jose.

Astellas and the tour hope to see the program grow to 25 events in 2014 and 35 in 2015.

The tour is working with Astellas to build more on-site activation opportunities at the golf course. An Astellas-sponsored women’s health pavilion is expected to debut in May at The Players Championship and as many as 12 other events later in the season.

Astellas works with Pennsylvania-based Roska, a health care-oriented advertising and marketing agency, on the Women’s Day initiative, while Edelman is coordinating public relations.

With the Women’s Day forums getting off the ground later this month, Fiedorowicz said the tour will look into other seasonlong platforms that can be built into the tournaments and sponsored.

One idea is to create a customized family zone on the golf course property, but away from the action, where children and their parents can take a break. Another idea is to build a platform around local universities. The Greenbrier Classic in the past has created reunion areas for graduates of West Virginia, Virginia Tech and other local schools as a way to attract more fans.

Charity is another seasonlong platform for the tour to sell and activate against.

The tour is floating these three concepts to the marketplace to see if umbrella sponsors can be secured.

“Our tournaments are 501(c)3 organizations with small staffs, and rather than each of them going out locally and finding a sponsor for these events, we’re redirecting resources here at the tour so that we can find a sponsor that will work across all of the tournaments,” Fiedorowicz said. “Our focus is on creating programs that will introduce a broader audience to our events, and these four buckets give us a long-term strategy for that.”