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Volume 22 No. 19
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PGA Tour moves licensing business

Longtime partner IMG out, Fermata in

Fermata Partners has supplanted IMG as the PGA Tour’s trademark licensing agency, ending a 20-year commercial relationship between the tour and IMG.

Atlanta-based Fermata, a division of CAA Sports, takes over the tour’s global licensing business exclusively as part of a new long-term deal. IMG’s agreement with the tour ended Dec. 31.

The tour’s already-robust licensing business reached $1.6 billion in gross sales last year from its 120 licensees, almost double the $850 million it did in 2013. Despite the recent growth, the tour opted to go with Fermata, the four-year-old upstart that has made big inroads in collegiate licensing, English soccer, Churchill Downs and other labels, such as Waffle House and Cabela’s.

“Tour licensing has been on a strong upward trend and we see it being poised for even greater success,” said Lance Stover, the tour’s vice president of new ventures and licensing.

Financial specifics of the deal were not released, but the tour characterized the new relationship as long-term and deeper than the previous arrangement with IMG. While the tour would not comment on deal structure, properties typically take 10 percent or so of the wholesale cost of a product, depending on the arrangement.

Some of the rights that Fermata will have weren’t part of IMG’s deal previously. Those include the tour-branded airport shops, PGA Tour grills and some of the tour’s private labels such as its fragrance, apparel, headwear, footwear, belts, wallets and socks.

Fermata will manage the marks for the PGA Tour brand, as well as other marks owned by the tour, ranging from the FedEx Cup and Presidents Cup to other tours in Latin America and Canada, the Champions Tour and Tour. Fermata also will have the licensing rights to the tour-owned Players Championship and the 28 tour events in what the tour calls its Tournament Collection. Some tournaments manage their own rights and are not part of the collection.
The tour will take a percentage of transactions that feature its logos across traditional golf apparel, golf accessories, video games and golf simulation.

“We went in with lots of experience and a solid vision for the tour’s program,” said Kit Walsh, a partner with Fermata. “Lance is really reforming the way the tour looks at licensing and we’re excited to be part of a broader and deeper offering the tour will have within its already global presence.”

Walsh is one of four partners at Fermata, each of whom left Collegiate Licensing Co. in 2011 to jointly start the new agency the following year. They have parlayed their relationships and experience from CLC into new business for Fermata, and many of the biggest wins domestically have come in the college space, where the agency now represents Georgia, Kentucky, Miami, Notre Dame, Oregon and Wisconsin.

Fermata was among a handful of licensing agencies that expressed interest in the PGA Tour’s licensing program early in 2015, knowing that the tour’s deal with IMG was set to expire at the end of 2015.

“We had been in a long-term relationship with IMG and we were pleased with the work they had done,” Stover said. “Knowing that their deal was up in 2015, a few parties raised their hand and said they’re interested. Ultimately, we looked at the experience and all the work done by Fermata. They wanted it badly and their passion for the brand was palpable.”

Stover, a seven-year veteran at the Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.-based tour, a year ago began running the tour’s licensing and new ventures, which includes the new online tee time business, by PGATour. The move into licensing made him the point person for the agency search. He absorbed the licensing responsibilities formerly held by the retiring Tim Hawes.

Fermata will take over management of the rights immediately.