Brands find traction among tour’s avid fans
United Airlines and Anheuser-Busch highlighted a year of divergence among PGA Tour fans in 2013 in terms of how those followers view the tour’s sponsors, according to the results of the latest annual Sponsor Loyalty Survey conducted for SportsBusiness Journal/Daily by Turnkey Sports & Entertainment.
Among avid PGA Tour fans surveyed last fall, United saw its fourth straight year of improvement in our study, which dates to 2008. More fans again in 2013 correctly identified United as the tour’s official airline as opposed to thinking another airline had that role.
United replaced Delta as the PGA Tour’s official airline after the 2010 season and has seen its recognition level among the sport’s avid fans, in particular, increase from 8.8 percent in 2010 to 23.5 percent in 2013. The airline in 2013 increased its presence at tournaments and used NBC’s final-round coverage of the season-ending Tour Championship by Coca-Cola to launch its biggest advertising effort in decades. The resurrection of the “Fly the Friendly Skies” spots were narrated by actor Matt Damon and continued to air through the fall on NFL and other sports telecasts.
Similarly, Anheuser-Busch enjoyed its highest level of recognition among avid PGA Tour fans dating to our first measurement of the tour. The brewer last year signed a multiyear extension with the tour to continue featuring its Michelob Ultra and O’Doul’s brands, furthering a relationship that dates to 1994. The brands activated at approximately 55 PGA Tour, Champions Tour and Web.com Tour events in 2013, and at several of those events set up the new Michelob Ultra Build-A-Bar, a high-end, 40-foot mobile bar featuring four 42-inch plasma screens and a rooftop viewing area.
|Bridgestone was the only tour sponsor not to see a decline among casual fans.
In fact, all but one of the sponsors that were measured at the conclusion of both the 2012 and 2013 seasons saw a decrease in awareness level among casual fans of the PGA Tour. Bridgestone was the only tour sponsor not to see a decline among casual fans, and its 20 percent recognition rate among that group was flat with its 2012 result.
Rob Ohno, senior vice president of corporate marketing at the PGA Tour, said the improvement seen by Anheuser-Busch and United among golf’s avid fans — as well as gains for MasterCard and Bridgestone — likely occurred because each activated “in breakthrough ways” in 2013.
“Plus, our avid fans see more facets of the broad range of activation than casual fans do,” Ohno said, “since they are attending more tournaments, watching more telecasts and absorbing more of our product through digital and print.”
Among other key findings:
■ 40 percent of the avid tour fans who were surveyed correctly identified Bridgestone as the official tire of the PGA Tour. The brand’s 6.5 percentage-point increase over the 2012 survey in that measure was the biggest improvement among all the tour’s sponsors. The tire maker in August announced an extension of its title sponsorship of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, through 2018.
■ 31 percent of avid fans recognized MasterCard’s official partner status, an increase from 29 percent among that fan group in 2012. The company has been a PGA Tour partner since 1995. Throughout the season, MasterCard’s logo was one of the most prominent on PGATour.com. Via that site, fans could enter the Member for a Day sweepstakes to win a weekend for four at a TPC course. Fans also could buy a daylong MasterCard Experience at 12 TPC courses.
■ More than one-third of avid fans correctly identified MetLife as an official corporate partner of the tour, topping fellow PGA Tour sponsors Travelers and Aflac in the insurance category. MetLife blimps have been hovering over PGA Tour events since 1987, and in July the company signed a four-year pact, running through 2016, that gives it the designations of official life insurance company of the PGA and Champions tours and official aerial coverage provider of the PGA Tour.
■ Coca-Cola, a tour sponsor since 2002, is halfway through a six-year extension the Atlanta-based company signed in 2010 with the PGA Tour ensuring that the Tour Championship will remain in the company’s hometown market through 2016. Although the company saw a drop of 6 percentage points in its recognition level among avid fans surveyed, its rate was higher than in the 2011 study and even with the 2008 and 2010 levels.
For this project, Turnkey Sports & Entertainment, through its Turnkey Intelligence operation, conducted national consumer research surveys among a sample of more than 400 members of the Toluna Online panel who were at least 18 years old. The 2013 survey was conducted Sept. 17-23, a period that included the year’s last FedEx Cup playoff event, the Tour Championship by Coca-Cola. In both 2012 and 2011, the survey was fielded Sept. 26-30, a five-day period that followed the Tour Championship.
When asked to identify official sponsors, respondents selected from a field of companies and brands that was provided to them for each business sector. Only the top-scoring companies and brands are listed in the results published here.
The percentage responses listed have been rounded. The margin of error for each survey is +/- 4.9 percentage points.
Turnkey works with more than 70 retainer-based clients across the major professional leagues in North America, but none is directly affiliated with the PGA Tour.
IMPACT ON SAMPLING AND SUPPORT
|Are you more or less likely to consider trying a product/service if that product/service is an official sponsor of the PGA Tour?|
|Unaffected / less likely||36%||31%||33%||71%||59%||56%|
|Are you more or less likely to consciously support a company by purchasing its products/services if the company is an official sponsor of the PGA Tour?|
|Unaffected / less likely||33%||34%||32%||70%||62%||53%|
|Are you more or less likely to recommend a product/service to a friend or family member if that product/service is an official sponsor of the PGA Tour?|
|Unaffected / less likely||39%||36%||34%||75%||66%||55%|
SPONSORSHIP SIGNIFICANCE AND ASSESSMENT
Subject: How much more likely are fans to consider purchasing/using a PGA Tour sponsor’s product/service if they are aware of the relationship?
To read: 44 percent of PGA Tour fans said they would be more likely to consider drinking a soft drink that is the tour’s official soft drink if they knew which brand had that designation. The rate increased to 67 percent when considering only those fans who correctly knew that Coca-Cola is the PGA Tour’s official soft drink.
|CATEGORY (PGA SPONSOR)||AMONG ALL PGA FANS||AMONG PGA FANS WHO CORRECTLY IDENTIFIED THE SPONSOR||DIFFERENCE|
|Insurance (Aflac, MetLife, Travelers)*||37%||69%||+32 pct. points|
|Spirit (Ketel One)^||38%||69%||+31 pct. points|
|Soft drink (Coca-Cola)||44%||67%||+23 pct. points|
|Credit card (MasterCard)||36%||57%||+21 pct. points|
|Investment firm (Charles Schwab)||36%||54%||+18 pct. points|
|Airline (United)||37%||54%||+17 pct. points|
|Tire (Bridgestone)||37%||53%||+16 pct. points|
|>Beer (Anheuser-Busch)||43%||58%||+15 pct. points|
|Shipping services (FedEx)||39%||47%||+8 pct. points|
Subject: What brands do fans think should be PGA Tour sponsors?
To read: 62 percent of PGA Tour fans said they think FedEx should be a PGA Tour sponsor, compared with 38 percent who think UPS should have a PGA Tour deal. Those numbers became 78 percent and 36 percent, respectively, when considering only those PGA Tour fans who correctly knew that FedEx is the tour’s official shipping services sponsor.
|AMONG ALL PGA FANS||AMONG PGA FANS WHO CORRECTLY IDENTIFIED THE SPONSOR|
|PGA SPONSOR/COMPETITOR||RESPONSE RATES||DIFFERENCE||RESPONSE RATES||DIFFERENCE|
|Anheuser-Busch/||44% / 24%||+20 pct. points||73% / 26%||+47 pct. points|
|FedEx/UPS||62% / 38%||+24 pct. points||78% / 36%||+42 pct. points|
|Charles Schwab/E-Trade||44% / 30%||+14 pct. points||65% / 24%||+41 pct. points|
|Coca-Cola/Pepsi||56% / 38%||+18 pct. points||72% / 31%||+41 pct. points|
|38% / 38%||None||65% / 30%||+35 pct. points|
|Travelers/State Farm||31% / 37%||-6 pct. points||71% / 37%||+34 pct. points|
|Ketel One/Grey Goose^||14% / 30%||-16 pct. points||62% / 31%||+31 pct. points|
|MasterCard/Visa||48% / 53%||-5 pct. points||71% / 46%||+25 pct. points|
|Bridgestone/Michelin||40% / 38%||+2 pct. points||65% / 41%||+24 pct. points|
Which of the following is an official sponsor of the PGA?
|U.S. Postal Service||5.5%||4.0%||4.0%||2.5%||3.0%||2.0%|
|I’m not sure||23.0%||21.0%||15.2%||42.0%||38.0%||28.5%|
FedEx scored the highest recognition marks of any sponsor in the survey for a fourth consecutive year. The company in 2013 completed its first year of a five-year extension to remain the tour’s official shipping services partner and title sponsor of the FedEx Cup points competition, which was first awarded in 2007. FedEx also is the lead sponsor for the Memphis-based FedEx St. Jude Classic.
|I’m not sure||31.5%||25.0%||27.3%||52.0%||42.5%||37.0%|
Atlanta-based Coca-Cola, a tour sponsor since 2002, is the presenting sponsor of the season-ending Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta. The tournament winner, in addition to receiving a $1.44 million purse, gets a 1950s-era Coca-Cola vending machine. For fans, daily giveaways were awarded through the summer via MyCokeRewards.com, including golf trips for two to destinations such as Pinehurst and Pebble Beach.
|I’m not sure||25.5%||26.5%||NA||49.5%||47.0%||NA|
In August, Bridgestone announced a four-year extension of its title sponsorship of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, through 2018. The following month, the company re-signed Matt Kuchar as a spokesman. Following the third round of the 2013 Bridgestone Invitational, CBS commentator and Bridgestone representative David Feherty hosted the second annual Bridgestone Feherty Charity Challenge that benefits his Troops First Foundation, with military personnel and Bridgestone-backed golf pros taking part in a golfing competition.
|I’m not sure||20.5%||28.0%||25.3%||45.5%||42.0%||39.5%|
MetLife, Aflac and Travelers all have official insurance designations for the PGA Tour. Travelers also has a title sponsorship for the tour’s June event in Connecticut. The 2013 season marked MetLife’s first year as an official marketing partner for the tour. Its on-site visibility includes the aerial coverage of events it provides via its Snoopy One and Snoopy Two blimps.
|I’m not sure||35.5%||32.0%||26.3%||51.5%||44.0%||40.5%|
Anheuser-Busch in November agreed to a multiyear sponsorship renewal that keeps Michelob Ultra as the official beer of the PGA Tour, a position the brand has held since 1994. As part of the deal, O’Doul’s will remain the tour’s official non-alcohol brew. Michelob Ultra in 2013 also signed on as a founding partner of the season-ending Web.com Tour Championship event. The Michelob Ultra 19th Hole hospitality space can be found at stops across the tour, as well.
|I’m not sure||23.5%||26.5%||20.2%||39.5%||36.0%||27.0%|
The PGA Tour and Bank of America in March signed a multiyear extension of their sponsorship deal. As part of that renewal, they launched the PGA Tour BankAmericard Cash Rewards MasterCard credit card, which bears the PGA Tour logo. MasterCard also aired a series of commercials throughout the season that illustrated four everyday golfers visualizing themselves as PGA Tour pros Tom Watson, Ian Poulter, Graeme McDowell and Brandt Snedeker. The MasterCard Member for a Day Series allows cardholders the opportunity to experience membership for a day at TPC courses across the country on select days of the year, as well.
|I’m not sure||33.5%||36.5%||31.8%||53.5%||45.0%||43.5%|
United Airlines relaunched its “Fly the Friendly Skies” campaign on Sept. 22, with ads airing during telecasts that included the season-ending Tour Championship. One of the spots highlights pros Johnson Wagner, Ben Curtis and Stewart Cink describing their experiences with air travel to events. Among other airlines, Southwest Airlines and Adams Golf created a partnership that put logos of both brands on the hats and golf bags of eight PGA Tour pros.
|I’m not sure||32.5%||35.0%||NA||56.0%||49.0%||NA|
Charles Schwab is title sponsor of both the Champions Tour’s seasonlong points challenge and its season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship tournament. Other activations for the company include “The Mentor Project” documentary series, which is showcased on the company’s golf-centered website. It pairs PGA Tour legends with tour newcomers and depicts how the veterans’ advice and guidance affects the younger players. The site also offers lessons from golf instructor Hank Haney and financial investing advice.
|I’m not sure||48.0%||36.0%||NA||63.5%||51.0%||NA|
In its final year as the PGA Tour’s official spirit, a partnership that began in 2005, Ketel One saw a 7.5 percentage-point drop in its score among all respondents in the 2013 survey. The company had featured the Club Ketel One hospitality areas at various tournaments. In November, Grey Goose was added to the tour’s sponsor roster, replacing Ketel One, in a three-year deal that also covers the Champions Tour and Web.com Tour. Grey Goose will be featured in all PGA Tour Grill locations. It also has exposure to golf fans as a longtime sponsor of the “Grey Goose 19th Hole” talk show on Golf Channel.