PGA Tour Taps Doner for Media Buying, Planning

With Tiger Woods Away Indefinitely, Agency Must Attract Audience Beyond Fan Base

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A correction has been made in this story. See below for details.

CHICAGO ( -- The PGA Tour, facing life without its biggest drawing card for at least the next few months, has hired a media agency to help it grab some attention.

Without Woods, the PGA Tour may see less investment from its biggest advertisers.
Without Woods, the PGA Tour may see less investment from its biggest advertisers. Credit: AP
The newly Tiger Woods-less professional golf tour, which spends just more than $4 million a year on measured media, according to TNS Media Intelligence, has hired Southfield, Mich.-based Doner as its first media-buying and -planning agency of record for its 13 owned-and-operated tournaments.

Greg Clausen, chief media officer at Doner, said the tour wanted a media agency that could help bring its marketing further into the digital realm in an attempt to broaden its appeal beyond golf's traditional core audience.

That's a challenge that recently got steeper, of course, after Mr. Woods declared he would be taking a hiatus from the game to concentrate on his family after his marital infidelity became public. "We didn't anticipate it being quite so topical," Mr. Clausen said.

The tour, Mr. Clausen said, warmed to Doner's work on Mazda, where it handles media and creative not only on a national level, but also for individual local dealer groups, much in the way it will now work with the national PGA Tour as well as individual tournaments.

"The approach we were taking anyhow was trying to get beyond the core golf fan," said Mr. Clausen. "We're still committed to pushing into digital and doing things that will build buzz and social currency around the tour."

Grabbing the public's attention for events lacking Mr. Woods may not be easy. When Mr. Woods missed time due to a knee injury last year, the events he had previously played in typically saw ratings declines between one and two thirds, according to Nielsen data.

And that's reflected in the prices advertisers will pay for Tiger-less events. According to TNS, the average price of a 30-second spot in a non-major tournament featuring Mr. Woods last year was $104,500; the same spots in tournaments the golf star skipped cost $80,200.

That may mean that the PGA Tour and its primary broadcasters -- NBC and CBS -- will see less investment from its biggest advertisers. The two marketers that spent more than $20 million on men's PGA events during the first 10 months of this year were Eli Lilly & Co. ($28.1 million) and FedEx ($24.1 million). AT&T, Pfizer, Toyota, IBM and Fortune Brands round out the list of $15 million-plus spenders during that period.

But the big TV advertisers (save for AT&T, which is also a major back of Mr. Woods) have it relatively easy: They'll either pay less upfront for the presumed smaller audiences, or they'll get reimbursed with make-good ads if audiences fall short of projections.

The PGA's official sponsors will have less recourse, because they have typically signed multiyear deals based on the entire sport, and not on the presence or behavior of any one golfer. "They are selling the whole tour and the collective player group," notes Tony Ponturo, former head of global sports marketing at Anheuser-Busch, "so I don't see any recourse there."

The prices on the PGA Tour's official partner deals vary wildly, but typically fetch at least $500,000 and often more than $1 million. Official PGA partners include title sponsors FedEx and Nationwide, and a slew of smaller deals that include Anheuser-Busch's Michelob Ultra and O'Doul's, Kodak, Ketel One, Bridgestone, National Car Rental, Starwood Hotels, MasterCard and Aleve, among others.

"Some of those deals may include a small contingency clause based based on average ratings," said Jim Andrews, senior VP at sponsorship firm IEG. "My guess is most of them probably don't."

PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem, addressing the media last week, made it clear that he isn't among the doomsayers. "Let me just parenthetically say that the rumor that I keep on flask on my desk is not true. How is it that the tour has 46, 47 events, Tiger plays in 16, how do the other tournaments make it happen? The reason is there's value."

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CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story described Doner as the PGA Tour's national media-buying and -planning agency. Doner has been hired by the PGA Tour to handle media buying and planning for the Tour's owned-and-operated events, not for the PGA Tour itself.

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