It was Friday of Masters week, and 20 of golf’s highest-ranking executives gathered in a rented Augusta home, like a meeting of the five families.
By the time the two-hour meeting adjourned, the LPGA and PGA had agreed to stage a new major championship for women’s golf, NBC/Golf Channel had agreed to broadcast it, and KPMG had committed to be the title sponsor.
“I just remember looking around the room and being amazed that all of these really high-ranking executives were here,” said Kevin Ring, the PGA’s chief marketer. “It showed how committed all of these entities were to creating something that would be truly groundbreaking.”
That meeting last April in Augusta proved to be the climax for six months of negotiations. The result was a new major for the women’s golf calendar.
The KPMG Women’s PGA Championship will be held each June, beginning in 2015, they all agreed, and it will replace the Wegman’s LPGA Championship, which will be played for the final time in August.
KPMG will pay $5 million annually for a unique set of rights, plus media within the broadcast. The big four accounting firm, which previously had sponsored players Phil Mickelson and Stacy Lewis but had never sponsored an event before, also made an additional ad commitment to CNBC and MSNBC.
During tournament week, KPMG will stage a women’s leadership summit that will feature women in high-ranking positions from business, sports, politics and other fields.
“Augusta was the seminal meeting,” said Chris Goodman, KPMG’s chief marketing officer. “We all went into the meeting optimistic, but we had questions. Once we started hearing all of the other stakeholders play back to us what we were thinking, it solidified everything.”
The executives in the room that spring morning included LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan, PGA Chief Executive Pete Bevacqua, Golf Channel President Mike McCarley, KPMG Global Chairman John Veihmeyer and members of their teams. Jon Miller, NBC Sports’ president of programming, joined by speakerphone. KPMG’s agency, CAA Golf, sat in as well.
“We were all there to make sure that this event would elevate women’s golf,” Ring said. “We went around the room and each group weighed in on how they viewed it, and how it could grow.”
The agreement provides each party something it was missing.
For the LPGA, the new event will take the tour into major markets like New York (Westchester Country Club in Rye, N.Y., next year) and Chicago to play on better courses and provide larger purses. The Women’s PGA purse next year will be $3.5 million, up from $2.3 million for this year’s LPGA Championship.
Whan also achieves a goal he has talked about for more than a year — getting an LPGA event on a major network. Golf Channel will provide coverage of the first two rounds, while NBC will pick it up on weekends. Whan has described network TV coverage as critical to the tour’s growth.
The tournament gives the PGA something it was missing as well — a women’s major to go with its PGA Championship, Ryder Cup and Senior PGA. Bevacqua called the new event the most important initiative since he joined the association in November 2012.
The women’s leadership forum provides KPMG with a highly visible platform to talk about its commitment to “create an inclusive culture,” Veihmeyer said. “This is our opportunity to send a strong message about the importance of women leaders and empowerment. And golf provides the audience that is very similar to our stakeholders.”
Reaching the goal line in Augusta, however, took several months. The idea of a partnership between the LPGA and PGA, in fact, can be traced back more than two years, but it began to move beyond the theoretical stage on Oct. 31 of last year.
That’s when Whan and his team met with Bevacqua and his team in Melbourne, Fla., halfway between the LPGA’s headquarters in Daytona Beach and the PGA’s office in Palm Beach Gardens. Both sides committed to the idea of a new women’s major, and Jon Podany, the LPGA’s chief marketer, within days made a call to KPMG’s Shawn Quill, director of sports marketing and sponsorship. The interest right away was high.
Podany had pitched LPGA title sponsorships to KPMG before, going back to 2012 when the firm signed Lewis to an endorsement deal, but it wanted something different than the typical LPGA event. Quill and Goodman were intrigued by the partnership with the PGA, and they quickly took the idea to the chairman.
“We knew we had the right partner,” Ring said. “We just had to put together the right deal.”
A web of existing relationships also helped move the talks forward. The PGA’s Ring used to manage the KPMG account when he worked in IMG’s consulting division, so he knew the firm’s marketing team well. Bevacqua joined the PGA from CAA Sports, and formerly worked with the co-heads of CAA Golf, Billy McGriff and Ben Gannett. Podany had been at the PGA Tour when KPMG first entered golf with the Mickelson deal in 2005.
“It’s amazing how it all came together,” Podany said. “All of those relationships played a key role.”