The ins and outs of sponsoring an event without a logo
Corporate signage is ubiquitous at the vast majority of PGA Tour events. Logos appear everywhere, from grandstand seatbacks to flowerbeds, even T-shirt manufacturers are often branded. Miniature tractors and red umbrellas welcome golfers to the John Deere Classic and Travelers Championship, respectively.
At the Masters, global sponsors AT&T, IBM and Mercedes-Benz raised millions for the privilege of being associated with the Super Bowl of professional golf. While the familiar logos of these multinationals appear on TV and on the app, they are virtually invisible on location. Augusta National did not pioneer the practice of imposing rigid restrictions on on-site logo placement at a sporting event.
“The precedent is probably the Olympics. There is no signage inside the games and I guess they took note of that,” says Rick Burton, former director of marketing for the U.S. Olympic Committee and currently professor of sports management at the University of Syracuse.
“It’s bold the way they do it because everywhere else in golf there are so many logos and banners. In a fun way, it reminds us of a simpler time which I think is the intention,” he adds.
Augusta National’s lack of corporate logo bombardment stands out in a time when the trend is towards more marketing. The NHL increased the number of on-ice commercials a few years ago and the NBA – which already has corporate crests on jerseys – recently spotlighted advertising on warm up clothes. But a lack of logos doesn’t necessarily translate to a lower ROI. Many other variables are needed to measure results.
“Referral ROI is still a guessing game. It has become more quantified recently as the ability to track impressions has grown, but the value of impressions is still a guessing game. Linking sales of a product and increasing brand equity at an event is so laden with assumptions that it’s probably even more art than science,” says Mike Lewis, professor of sports marketing at Emory University.
And while the logos are out of sight at the Masters, that doesn’t mean they’re out of mind. Golfers in the 2022 edition of the major tournament receive the new electric Mercedes EQS as a courtesy vehicle and VIPs are driven along Magnolia Lane in the German luxury brand’s sprinter vans. While fans, referred to as “bosses” at the event, do not enter the park via the majestic causeway, when they make their pilgrimage to Founders Circle outside the clubhouse to view the famous Masters emblem, consisting yellow pansies, they can see passing cars very well.
“If your hope is to one day emulate your favorite player on tour, maybe subliminally you’ll say, ‘well, I saw him in a Mercedes, so if I want to be like him, I should buy a Mercedes'”, says Burton.
There is a marketing concept called the match hypothesis where if consumers feel there is a congruence between a spokesperson and a brand or a sponsor and an event, they can more easily buy into it.
“You have the best of the best in golf courses at Augusta National, picking one of the best of the best in the automotive world. It’s no coincidence that this game is as good as it gets. is. There are a lot of similarities. Both brands stand for the same things and make each other better in a way,” said world number 2 Jon Rahm, Mercedes ambassador.
Another key benefit for sponsors attached to the event is the ability to use one of the most popular tickets in professional sports to solidify existing customer relationships and foster new business. Companies invite their customers to special VIP areas and exclusive parties where golfers participating in the tournament can even come and chat, sign autographs and pose for photos. Although these indirect benefits may be more difficult to quantify than the impressions or exposures detailed in sponsorship contracts, they can be very effective.
“Marketing is driven by individuals and relationships are important. Inviting someone to the Masters can be a powerful relationship building tool and an amazing networking opportunity. These “soft” benefits of sponsorship can be incredibly powerful,” says Lewis.
“Access to VIP areas and experiences like meeting golfers can create powerful bonds. It’s like standard sports experiences where regular fans bond over exciting events. Today it’s people businesses that create memories and bonds around a great experience.”