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Volume 23 No. 17
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Exclusivity returns to TPC Sawgrass clubhouse

When the PGA Tour earlier this year unveiled its new hospitality offering, The Players Club, for The Players tournament, the stated goal was to create a more exclusive experience in the opulent clubhouse of host site TPC Sawgrass.

The approach appears to have worked. The clubhouse was far less crowded around noontime on Tuesday of tournament week this year than it was at the same time last year, when the facility was buzzing with well-heeled fans and golf insiders. The price of access this year was $5,000, with The Players Club package providing for unlimited food and beverage in the clubhouse as well as prime seating near the dramatic island green at the 17th hole and the closing 18th green.

A package with clubhouse access cost $5,000 at this year’s Players.
Photo by: GETTY IMAGES
Tour executives would not say how many Players Club tickets were sold this year, but volume was clearly in mind.

“We didn’t intend to sell it out the first year,” said Ty Votaw, chief marketing officer of the PGA Tour. “We wanted to start slow and build on it. We have an asset in the clubhouse, and that asset was overused, and that overuse had made it less special. We wanted to phase out the number of people who came through and now we think it provides a best-in-class

Photo by: JOHN LOMBARDO / STAFF
hospitality experience combining the clubhouse with the ability to go out and watch two iconic holes in 17 and 18 and make it a national and international destination for our fans.”

UPDATING SPONSORS: The tour counts a total of 107 partners when including official marketing partners, promotional partners, and tournament title sponsors for the PGA, Champions and Web.com tours. Representatives from many of those sponsors were in Ponte Vedra Beach last week as the tour hosted its annual partnership meeting.

The gathering on Wednesday — with about 350 executives meeting at the Sawgrass Marriott Golf Resort — was an opportunity for Deputy Commissioner Jay Monahan and other top tour executives to address sponsors on the state of the tour’s business. The annual program is also a chance to present a few tour sponsorship case studies.
“It is a conference to share and interface with tour executives who sponsors might not see,” said Tom Wade, chief commercial officer for the tour. “We hope that they network and learn.”

Wade said the tour will not increase the number of top-level deals for The Players now that Morgan Stanley has signed on as the event’s third Proud Partner sponsor, joining Optum and PricewaterhouseCoopers.

“That is it,” Wade said of the Morgan Stanley deal, signed earlier this year. “This is a tournament that you have to find the right partner. It is a less-is-more proposition.”

The Proud Partner deals are annual seven-figure agreements and include hospitality, on-course signage and a prime media presence: TV advertising during the tournament’s broadcast is limited to Proud Partner sponsors.

For Morgan Stanley, the deal marks a return to the PGA Tour sponsorship roster. The company was presenting sponsor of the Memorial Tournament from 2004-10.

WATCHING OTT: The tour last summer rolled out its PGA Tour Live product, an OTT stream that features coverage of Thursday and Friday morning tournament play. To date, there have been 600,000 downloads of the PGA Tour Live app, according to tour executives, who said they’ve been pleased with the digital network’s content and production and are looking to drive subscriptions. They did not, however, disclose the number of subscribers who are paying $5 per month for the service or a $40 annual fee.

PGA Tour Live will have at least 30 events on its schedule this year compared with 15 last year.

“The look of it has been well-received,” said Rick Anderson, executive vice president of global media for the tour. “We will promote it on all our platforms and we will do some paid advertising.”