CPAS ACCOUNT ON GOLF PLAYERS' APPEAL

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NEW YORK-Accounting firms, known for prudent ad spending, are teeing off to reach the lucrative marketing greens found in the sport of golf.

Coopers & Lybrand, which has made notoriously infrequent forays into TV advertising, has signed as a co-sponsor of NBC's 1995 and '97 Ryder Cup tournaments.

The firm will fill its airtime with spots from Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos, Boston, and while creative plans haven't been set yet, it's expected the spots will star newly signed endorser and U.S. Ryder Cup team captain Lanny Watkins.

Meanwhile, Ernst & Young has procured the services of hot golfer Nick Price. While ads from Grey Advertising, New York, aren't yet in the offing, the firm hopes to generate TV exposure by having Mr. Price wear a hat and apparel bearing its logo during personal appearances and televised matches.

Accounting firms, the conventional wisdom goes, have eschewed TV advertising because it's an inefficient way to reach the narrow, alphabet soup target audience of CEOs, COOs and CFOs.

But firms like Coopers & Lybrand and Ernst & Young have been expanding their scope, handling smaller accounts and venturing into consulting. Golf, with its high-income demographics, is considered the best TV vehicle to drive that message home.

"In the past, the cultures within these firms would have considered this kind of advertising radical," said George Lesnick, marketing director for Ernst & Young. "Still, I'm surprised we haven't done this before. The demographics are perfect for us."

That hasn't kept Coopers & Lybrand from purchasing time during the more mass-market sports properties of the 1993 Super Bowl and the 1994 Orange Bowl. But those buys-the only two in its history-were made mostly to create a public relations splash.

The Ryder Cup has emerged as one of the hottest golf TV properties, thanks to NBC's smart marketing. Coopers & Lybrand paid an estimated $2.5 million to sponsor the '95 and '97 broadcasts.

Ernst & Young's investment in Mr. Price may be more modest, but the crafty human billboard strategy is even more radical.

"Nick is one of the best golfers in the world, so he doesn't have to be leading a tournament to get coverage. People want to see him play anyway," Mr. Lesnick said. "It's widely known that he's never worn a hat, so that alone will generate a lot of attention for us."

Ernst & Young is hoping Mr. Price will better last year's success with hot new star Jim Gallagher Jr., whose hat was seen by millions during the PGA Tour Championship and Ryder Cup.

The hats for Messrs. Gallagher and Price are made by Tex Ace, San Antonio. Mr. Price will also wear a shirt bearing the Ernst & Young logo made by Le Coq Sportif, a division of Adidas International. Both companies are Ernst & Young clients.

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