Significant change came to the PGA Tour schedule this year and, as announced by commissioner Jay Monaghan before last week’s Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass, further re-engineering will take place in 2024 with the ultimate goal of keeping the circuit’s top players happy and less likely to be tempted to leave by including eight limited-field, no-cut events with minimum purses of $20 million each.
Most proponents, supporters and fans of the sport appear to be in favor of the changes, or at least understand their necessity in the face of competition from the deep-pocketed LIV Golf.
But as a recent Golfweek article suggested, the possibility exists that sponsors of full-field tournaments that are not elevated to designated-event status may be less than thrilled at the prospect of their events being relegated to a second-tier role without any requirements that top players appear.
The piece offers evidence in the form of quotes from some of those most impacted by the changes that “while initially tournament directors and sponsors of non-designated events were grumbling that they would be shut out of luring top players without finding creative ways to incentivize them to do so, that sentiment has shifted as the PGA Tour has begun communicating its messaging.”
While much of the arguments center on specifics, such as stronger fields for some tournaments based on the incentive to play in order to qualify for a smaller number of FedEx Cup playoff spots (70 instead of 125), there is a broader case to be made for sponsors still earning a healthy return on objectives and investment no matter who plays in their events.
Generating awareness and reaching the largest audience possible is not a primary goal for sponsors of PGA Tour events. Most are business-to-business marketers for whom an increased television audience—pulled in to watch Scottie Scheffler, Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm and other top pros—is a nice bonus, but not essential to achieving their objectives. Even consumer-facing brands such as Honda and Wyndham have significant B2B elements that don’t require appearances by top stars and big TV ratings.
Consider two TicketManager All Access Interview Series podcast guests: Jim Overbeck, senior vice president of marketing for Fortinet, and Andy Bosman, CMO of RSM. Both companies title events during the PGA Tour’s Fall season, after the Tour Championship is concluded.
Fall tournaments on the Tour are not known for fields packed with top 50 players, yet Overbeck and Bosman were both very clear in their interviews that their companies’ tournaments have been extremely successful in delivering return on investment as drivers of improved relationships and new business from their corporate clientele.
When entertaining top customers and prospects, and entertaining other key stakeholders, does it help to have the game’s best players at your tournament? Absolutely. Is it critical to success? No.