Golf brings in the green

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Magazines and cable TV operators have discovered a new vein of sponsorship dollars-funky new golf tournaments bringing celebrities and golf pros together with well-heeled amateur golf players.

The trend is turning up fresh sponsorship money from luxury goods and travel marketers in a tight economy. And PGA Tour events are also expanding their pre-tournament pro-am activity to generate more revenue, say golf insiders.

"Golfers tend to be very affluent, and there is considerable potential for marketers creating new media platforms to reach them," said Brad Adgate, senior VP-director of research for Horizon Media, New York.

Conde Nast's Bon Appetit last month snagged Ford Motor Co.'s Thunderbird, Fireman's Fund insurance and Dacor as new sponsors for its second annual Scottsdale Celebrity Chef Golf Invitational. In the tournament, presented by MasterCard International, famous chefs teed off with magazine subscribers.

Upscale

The sold-out event, which drew over 500 participants, will air on cable TV's USA Network in June and will also be the focus of a one-hour special on Food Network next year.

"Putting golf, celebrity chefs and gourmet food together in a real tournament seemed like an unlikely combination at first, but it's drawn extraordinary interest from upscale consumers and promises to be a major ongoing event for us," said Lynn Heiler, VP-publisher of Bon Appetit.

American Express Publishing Corp.'s Travel & Leisure Golf has also boosted sponsorship and participation in its second annual Puerto Rico Ambassador's Cup, planned for December and hosted by golfing legend Chi Chi Rodriguez; sponsors include JetBlue Airways and Rums of Puerto Rico. The event will be covered on TV as well, said planners.

Time4Media's Golf Magazine is co-sponsoring next month's inaugural "Best Western's People vs. the Pros" tournament pitting famous professional golfers Lee Trevino or John Daly against amateur golfers for the first time ever. Two amateurs will be chosen from a combination of a sweepstakes and qualifying rounds; each receives $100,000. That event will be carried live on The Golf Channel.

"Teaming executives with pro golfers in pro-ams or celebrity tournaments is powerful marketing, and magazines are starting to recognize its potential," said Don Higgins, a spokesman for The Golf Channel.

The first-ever nationwide Father & Son Open Tournament, sponsored by Dewar's Scotch Whiskies and Golf Digest Cos.' Golf Digest launched this month and continues through June 3, designed to give amateurs a taste of life as a pro golfer. Tournaments take place in Miami, Boston, Chicago and New York, promoting Dewar's cocktails surrounding the games.

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