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Sponsorship for Golf Tournaments: How to Hit a Hole in One with Sponsors

Golf Tournaments usually have a clear audience that appeals to an interesting variety of sponsors. While it might seem the logical focus would be on sports apparel and equipment, the audience at golf tournaments tend to be affluent, successful, educated people with money to spend.

Therefore, the sponsors who make the most sense for golf tournaments are often be high-end luxury brands across a broad spectrum of products and services. If you want to hit a hole in one with your golf tournament, you need to think high-end, high-price brands, in hand with a more sophisticated level of activations.

Golf, and event sponsorship in general, can be a lot of work but when done right, can also be very lucrative and have a special place in the sport sponsorship space.

The Standard Golf Tournament Sponsorship Package

First let’s talk about some of the typical sponsorship assets you find within golf tournaments:

  • Title sponsorship
  • Hole, tee and green sponsors
  • Golf cart sponsors
  • Food and drink sponsors: wine, dinner, water bottles etc
  • Branding opportunities on tickets, at the table, invitations, prizes
  • Speaking opportunities at the event
  • Custom/branded e-mails sent to invitees and attendees
  • Custom signage

If you’ve sponsored one golf tournament you’ve sponsored them all, which is why customizing your sponsorship package and really getting to know your prospects will help you stand out. Ask questions and find out what sponsors are looking for beyond the standard sponsorship package and engage them early in the process. Your prospects will likely be getting dozens, maybe even hundreds, of golf tournament packages that all say the same thing, stand out and be different and start with a conversation.

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6 Tips: How to Create a Golf Tournament Sponsorship Package

Having run more golf tournaments than I can count, I have seen some trends and sponsorship packages ideas that I think are worth discussing here.

Sponsorship tip #1: You can have more than one hole sponsorship opportunity for each hole! The same hole can have a tee off sponsor and a green sponsor. I’ve done multiple tee off and multiple green sponsors on the same hole. While a low level sponsorship cost, they add up fast this way. Be honest and clear that you are doing this and be careful with conflicting companies but with some planning, this is a great way to increase your revenue.

Sponsorship tip #2: An in kind donation is NOT a sponsorship! Giving you the water for free, or the wine for that matter, seems like a good idea because you lower your costs but things are not often as they first appear. What makes you more money, not paying $500 for wine with dinner or paying $500 for the wine and then finding a sponsor to give you $3000 to be the wine sponsor?

Sponsorship tip #3: People spend a ton of time building prizes for their tournaments. Make sure to include the right to give a high-end gift, or many mid sized gifts, to the prize table as part of your sponsorship agreements. I can’t tell you how many iPads and free trips I’ve received from my sponsors as another way to activate their sponsorship. Two birds with one stone!

Sponsorship tip #4: Some events only allow you to play if you are a sponsor- no foursomes are sold directly! The sponsors then get to theme a hole and enter a team or two. It makes for a cool fundraising event full of activities that you don’t pay for (gotta love sponsorship activation!) and you don’t find yourself scrambling to sell tickets to fill the course.

Sponsorship tip #5: This one is not strictly about sponsorship but about the flow of the event itself. Instead of having events at select holes where you charge $5 per play (meaning you hit your attendees up multiple times) sell them a VIP pass at registration. This let’s them pay for all games on the course up front, let’s them use credit card and also let’s you sell them your first round of raffle tickets.

Sponsorship tip #6: Be strategic about branding and logo placement. I have seen instances where the title sponsor’s recognition was trumped by the “name tag sponsor” because they were recognized on every name tag while the title sponsor only had stage visibility at the end of the event. I even heard people throughout the event calling the name tag sponsor the title sponsor!

The Golf Tournament Audience

According to the PGA, their audience is well off and well-educated and most likely in a position that is influential and authoritative at least within their career roles. While not every golf tournament is the PGA, the golf crowd does tend to be more driven. The PGA reports that their attendees are decision-makers and thought leaders holding positions of power and high income such as C-Suite executives, lawyers, top management positions and professionals in the business and financial management industries. Therefore, when looking for sponsors you really have to raise the bar and seek out luxury brands.

If your audience is not a typical golfing audience, instead focus on their demographics, buying habits, preferred brands and build a list of sponsors who want to reach that audience.

Go Beyond Typical Sponsorship Packages

There is always an old way and a new way of doing things. It is no different for sponsorship. When considering golf tournaments, the traditional approach to getting sponsorship was the typical list of “opportunities” such as rights and benefits that the sponsors were expected to activate on their own. The sponsorships depend on the basic impressions for the large audiences that attend and pass through the tournament, but little is done from an activation standpoint. Today, those basics are changing, and sponsors and audiences want more from their tournament experience.

Modern golf tours are changing the way things are done at tournaments with a focus on providing sponsors with defined objectives so that both the sponsor and the tournament planners work together to create experiences. Using this idea to create your activations allows you to learn more about your prospects, their objectives and KPIs and what they want to achieve. It is not just about impressions but looking at business goals so a plan can be made to help sponsors achieve those goals. Together you can create experiences that resonate with attendees, so both the tournament and sponsors reap better rewards.

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Get in the Game with Experiential Marketing

Bringing the game to the people is one of the easiest ways to create experiential marketing opportunities at tournaments. Attendees are golf fanatics, although some are there because they have to be or for networking opportunities. You can bring the game to them with experiential marketing that leverages the latest in golf technology. Gaming has taken the authentic sports experience to new levels, incorporating massive screens and gaming technology that allows people to participate and test their skills. Sponsors can brand the suites and they can be set up at various locations both inside and out.

Although everything you do should be golf related, there are many aspects to golf beyond playing the game. There is also the clubhouse. People participate in the social aspects of the game, while enjoying the amenities offered at the clubhouse. Therefore, other higher-end set-ups might include an alcoholic beverage branded lounge where people can sample top-shelf liquor, chat and get out of the sun. Wine sponsors can host a dining experience where a local chef can provide grilled foods al fresco or have an indoor Prix fix style menu for people to indulge in a decadent small portion meal with several courses.

Local car dealers can host a luxury car test drive at an allotted spot in the club parking lot, while travel companies can set up a destination inspired area where people can take pictures of themselves in front of world landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower. Better yet theme it around golf with people taking images of themselves at top world golf courses like Ballybunion in Ireland or Turnberry and historic St. Andrew’s in Scotland. Encourage people to post their images to social media with a tournament hashtag to increase reach.

And don’t forget to indulge. Perhaps it’s a foot massage in the shade for people who have been walking the course all day. You might have a refreshing spritz area where people can refresh themselves with a luxurious facial mist sponsor.

Have a sponsor pay for pro golf tips at a driving range set up or AR experiences with legends like Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus. The theme is there for your inspiration, all you have to do is think of ways to entertain and engage and work with sponsors to execute it together.

Avoid Standard Packages

As you can see by our examples, we are trying to avoid the standard packages offered to sponsors. Yes, you will have to ensure their brand is front and center to get good use out of the assets you offer, but the way you present your packages will make a world of difference when trying to attract these higher-end brands.

Trade in the old stand by “levels” of sponsorship packages and instead focus on the objectives of your prospects. Ask yourself what they might achieve by participating and put together packages that will help them meet their goals. For example, some of the goals might include:

  • Creating brand authority
  • Reaching a specific audience offered by your tournament
  • Educating an audience about a brand or service
  • Product or service launches
  • Improving PR

If you think of the possible goals your prospects want to achieve, you can create packages tailored to these needs. Your package levels can reflect these objectives to make it clear you understand their unique reason for participating. And don’t forget that a sponsorship opportunity should never be set in stone. Instead, you want to provide a negotiable, flexible set up that allows sponsors to customize their packages in order to encourage them to not only want to participate but more importantly participate in more meaningful ways.

Profit, Not Philanthropy

A big mistake golf tournaments make is trying to make sponsors feel like philanthropists. The truth of the matter is, even at charity golf tournaments, sponsors ultimately want to reinforce their image with the right audience. The tournaments present a unique marketing experience where they can interact with their target audience in more exciting ways. Because of this, don’t try to sell sponsorships as a philanthropic opportunity, but focus on the marketing opportunities offered. Sell the benefits of reaching their audience.

Golf tournaments have an exclusive audience that luxury brands want to engage with. Whether it is a local tournament, or a larger scale event, sponsors are excited at the idea of being face to face with this elusive group. When approaching luxury brands either on a local or international level, knowing what you are selling and to whom will allow you to create highly customized sponsorship opportunities that help prospects see how they can meet their marketing objectives.

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Chris Baylis is the President and CEO of The Sponsorship Collective and a self-confessed sponsorship geek.

After several years as a sponsor (that’s right, the one investing the money!) Chris decided to cross over to the sponsorship sales side where he has personally closed tens of millions of dollars in sponsorship deals. Chris has been on the front lines of multi-million dollar sponsorship agreements and has built and coached teams to do the same.

Chris now spends his time working with clients to value their assets and build strategies that drive sales. An accomplished speaker and international consultant, Chris has helped his clients raise millions in sponsorship dollars.

Connect with Chris via: The Sponsorship Collective | Twitter | LinkedIn