The pro golfing tour, though drawing thousands of upscale consumers to its 48 annual competitions, has in the past had only small-scale expos at a handful of tournaments.
Bloomberg is changing all that as title sponsor of a fan expo that will visit 10 PGA Tour tournaments in 2000. A giant pavilion will offer entertainment, games, sweepstakes and product information from up to 21 sponsoring companies.
Bloomberg ExpoVillage is expected to be the largest enclosed fan expo in sports marketing, housed in a 100-by-100-foot climate-controlled tent designed specifically for PGA Tour sites. The event will be free to all tournament ticketholders.
The expo first sets up at the AT&T Pebble Beach PGA Tour event Feb. 3-6. Golf Digest and Fortune are media partners of the effort, and deals with several other sponsors are expected to close in December.
The multimillion-dollar three-year deal is the first-ever major sponsorship or sports marketing deal for the fast-growing media company.
Bloomberg's sudden move into sponsorship and sports marketing follows the company's explosive growth in the past five years as it has expanded from a financial information company targeting Wall Street professionals to a creator of financial media for diverse audiences, generating content for TV, radio, the Internet, books and five different magazines.
"We've gradually shifted our focus to target consumers as well as financial professionals, and we wanted to find a way to reach these different audiences through one event allowing us to showcase our diverse media offerings in one place," said Joanne Knowlton, Bloomberg's director of marketing.
As the main attraction in the pavilion, Bloomberg will have top billing and the opportunity to demonstrate its media offerings and produce live reports from PGA Tour events. The sponsorship also allows Bloomberg the chance to entertain its diverse audience with hospitality to vendors and institutional customers, Ms. Knowlton said.
"In some ways, we've been a well-kept secret, and although many people are familiar with one aspect of our services or another, the majority don't realize all the various things we offer," she said. "Bloomberg ExpoVillage allows us to establish in the consumer's mind what some people may not know."
Golf was an ideal area to exploit, Ms. Knowlton said, because the PGA Tour's spectators match Bloomberg's audience of upscale, educated, business-oriented consumers and professionals.
PGA Tour events also were a good fit because they offer significant chunks of leisure time between tournament activities for attendees to wander through the pavilion.
SENSING AN OPPORTUNITY
Golf tournament organizers have sensed an opportunity for expos for the past few years, and several individual tournaments have developed their own small-scale expos.
But the PGA Tour had never attempted a national-scale expo until the PGA Tournament Association got together this year with Princeton, N.J.-based Denby, a unit of Interpublic Group of Cos.' Jack Morton Co., to brainstorm about de- veloping a fan fair using Denby's expertise in executing trade shows and mobile marketing programs.
"We hatched the idea together, because we wanted to do more with expos at events, and Denby has a lot of experience with on-site marketing and golf events, and the timing seemed right," said Barry Palm, executive director of the PGA Tournament Association, which represents the interests of all 48 events within the PGA Tour.
One challenge has been avoiding stepping on the toes of the PGA Tour's long list of marketing partners including Anheuser-Busch's Michelob, Bank of America, Delta Air Lines, HealthSouth, Price Waterhouse Coopers and Charles Schwab & Co.
Although several of those sponsors have limited on-site presence at events, no PGA Tour sponsor has the kind of expo presence with hands-on marketing opportunities provided by Bloomberg ExpoVillage.
"Denby is working to avoid conflicts between PGA Tour sponsors and ExpoVillage sponsors, but tournaments need to reinvent themselves every year. Attendance at PGA Tour events is growing, but every year we're in competition with other sporting and entertainment events, so adding the expo helps enhance the tournaments' success," Mr. Palm said.
For Bloomberg ExpoVillage sponsors, benefits include the opportunity to conduct one-to-one marketing to customers within a controlled environment, which is increasingly important to sponsors that shy away from events where their message will be buried in clutter, said Bob Denby, president of the marketing company.
"People are bombarded with so much visual noise in the consumer market these days that if you get the chance to be one-on-one with consumers in a relaxed setting without a lot of other distraction and noise, it's extremely powerful," Mr. Denby said.
The minimum fee for being an official sponsor within the 10-event run of Bloomberg ExpoVillage in 2000 is $270,000. Marketers also can opt to run sweepstakes, games, contests, consumer research, sampling, demonstrations and sell products within the pavilion.
Each sponsor will receive advertising within ExpoVillage promotion materials, tournament programs, signage, event badges and TV monitors within the pavilion.
Sponsors also can arrange to use the pavilion for private and hospitality events.
Sponsor categories are likely to include brokerages, mutual fund companies, insurance and healthcare providers, pharmaceutical companies, and Internet portals and Web sites, Mr. Denby said.