Phil Mickelson entered the hotel ballroom and walked across the stage, where an exclusive gathering of KPMG partners awaited.
In his right arm, Mickelson cradled the claret jug like a football, the trophy from his stunning come-from-behind win at the British Open last year.
And here he was, at a KPMG outing in Orlando soon after his fifth major championship victory last summer, sharing the trophy with major players from the Big Four accounting firm, including Chairman John Veihmeyer.
|Mickelson’s hat gives KPMG great visibility in golf.
“It was very cool,” said Shawn Quill, KPMG’s director of sports marketing and sponsorships, and an 11-year veteran with the firm. “It’s the little things he does, like bringing the claret jug, that makes connections with people. ... Golf is the perfect fit for us, and being with Phil is just a powerful relationship.”
Endorsing Mickelson is not an inexpensive proposition. KPMG, which has sponsored the front of Mickelson’s hat since 2008, pays in the mid-to-high seven figures annually for that space, industry experts say. Such an arrangement includes rights to his likeness, four annual golf outings and branding on one of the sport’s most popular golfers.
The two sides agreed last month to extend the relationship another three years, through the 2016 season. Quill negotiated the deal with Mickelson’s longtime agent, Steve Loy. CAA Sports is KPMG’s consultant on its golf deals.
Mickelson comes at a premium because he’s one of just a handful of golfers — another being Tiger Woods — whose round will be televised regardless of how he’s playing, virtually guaranteeing airtime.
“We don’t have a lot of activity outside of golf,” said Quill, who expanded the program last year by signing LPGA star Stacy Lewis to a hat deal. “Golf is the right demographic match for us, especially between those in the C-level suite and golf. … The golf course is still a good place to do business, get to know someone. Accounting and consulting are relationship businesses, and Phil is a master at that. He’s got a billion stories to tell.”
Another benefit to the longevity of KPMG’s deal is that by now Mickelson knows many of the guests at the golf outings by name, enabling him to add a personal touch to events that are purposely kept intimate. Typically, the guest list is no longer than 30 to 35 people.
They’ve also teamed up on a charitable activation called “Blue for Books,” in which three books are donated to the nonprofit First Book for the sale of each blue hat at $29.99 each. Net proceeds go to KPMG’s “Family for Literacy” campaign.
“We’re very happy with where we are, but we are looking to continue to grow our presence in golf,” Quill said.