PGA Tour Exec: The history of golf in Canada is strong

The RCGA rolled out Ty Votaw (yes, the former LPGA commissioner who ended up dating one of his players) yesterday to talk about how important the Canadian Open is to the PGA Tour.

Here’s what Votaw had to say on the fact there’s no sponsor for the event:

“The PGA Tour brand is strong,” Votaw said Friday after speaking to the RCGA’s Board of Governors. “The history of golf in Canada is strong. I think the event itself is a selling point.”

That’s easy to say, especially when the PGA Tour saddled the event with the date after the British Open.

The story, by a Canadian Press sports reporter Chris Johnston, quotes Brad Pelletier, the head of IMG Canada, about the possibility of finding a sponsor. Pelletier says it will be tough — but achievable. I’ve had the opportunity to spend a lot of time with Pelletier lately and he’s a great leader for this cause — a guy with a track record of putting together an attractive marketing proposal with the right company. However, it strikes me that for the RCGA to turn to an outside agency to find the right sponsor, it says the organization does not have the leadership to find and attract the correct sponsorship opportunities.

Increasingly I’m hearing from a lot of highly placed golf industry sources that they feel it is time RCGA executive director Stephen Ross stepped aside and let someone else steer the ship for the leading golf organization in Canada. These sources, many of which have had extensive dealings with the RCGA, say Ross doesn’t have the business connections to pull in a sponsor. I don’t know whether that is true — but Ross has spent his entire career working for the RCGA and does not appear to have tremendous links to Bay Street, or the business communities in Calgary, Montreal or Vancouver. Regardless, he’s in a difficult spot and the accolades of finding — or the derision for not finding — a sponsor for the Open will likely rest with him.

As for Ross, apparently he’ll be stress free once a sponsor is found:

“It is on the top of my list,” he said. “I know we don’t have a sponsor yet because there is still some stress in my life.”

The full CP story is here.

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Robert Thompson

A bestselling author and award-winning columnist, Robert Thompson has been writing about business and sports, and particularly golf, for almost two decades. His reporting and commentary on golf has appeared in Golf Magazine, the Globe and Mail, T&L Golf and many other media outlets. Currently Robert is a columnist with Global Golf Post, golf analyst for Global News and Shaw Communications, and Senior Writer to ScoreGolf. The Going for the Green blog was launched in 2004.

10 CommentsLeave a comment

  • RT

    Finding a company that will sign up to a $35M investment over five or six years is a big proposition. This kind of search requires a company with a lot of experience, and global interests. I think that is why the RCGA decided to go with IMG. They are looking beyond Bay Street, into the US. Therefore, your comment about Ross having no connections to Bay Street isn’t really relevant.

    The search for a $35M investment will take place largely south of the border. Both the RCGA and IMG have said as much.

    Also, the days when a couple of connections could secure a sponsorhip from a CEO are long, long gone. CEOs are being held accountable for their decisions and I really doubt that a company will make a $35M investment because one is ‘connected’. You might be able to have a CEO throw a couple of thousand your way to sponsor you for a skip-a-thon, if you are ‘connected’, as you say, but you won’t be able to get $35M in today’s environment.

    This kind of deal will have to be part of a company’s broad marketing strategy, and will have to deliver value to the sponsor. It will have nothing to do with ‘connections’. To think otherwise really shows a naive understanding of sponsorships at this level. It is all about value, branding, strategy and has very little to do with connections.

    Also, I am wondering who these “highly placed golf industry sources” are? Have they ever been involved in a golf sponsorhip at this level? Likely not, because by my last count, I think the RCGA is the only GOLF organization in Canada, apart from IMG’s involvement in their own golf properties, involved in securing sponsorships at this level. In other words, these highly placed sources aren’t qualified to pass judgement, because they haven’t been involved in procuring sponsorships at this level. I can assure you that they may have been successful at securing skip-a-thon sponsorships with their connections, but they have never ever secured a title sponsorship in the $25-$35M range, because nobody other than the RCGA is in that business and by my count they have been successful numerous times (du maurier, Bell, At&T, Bank of Montreal, CN).

    “Not well connected, but understands business”, Alfie

  • Difficult situation as the PGA keeps screwing up the Canadian Open date. At one time the Canadian Open was 5th most important on the Tour, right behind the Western Open. The PGA Tour has now displaced both events.

  • I think it is fair to say that connections will not secure a sponsorship of this magnitude but they will open doors and enable a thoughtful conversation of how the Canadian Open can help meet an organization’s marketing objectives. Connections are one of many elements required by those in leadership to obtain this sponsorship.

    As to who would be a good sponsor, I agree that the company will have a North American footprint but will likely be based in Canada, hence the need to have connections within the major Canadian urban centres. To think of a US based company with operations in Canada as a likely sponsor is a long shot. As has been mentioned before, companies like RIM with a large market share in the US and are based in Canada would be a good target. I would hope those conversations have already been initiated.

  • “The history of golf in Canada is strong” does not mean the “Future of golf in Canada is strong”. Now, Paraquay with its six courses, is becoming a golfing powerhouse!
    For the Canadian Open why not Bombardier, CIBC or TD Waterhouse. I am bombarded by their ads on US TV, maybe the Canadian Open would be a bargain.

  • I agree with RT, if Ross does indeed have ties with finanical communities (Bay Street, Wall Street etc.)a deal would have been done by now. I believe that a sponsorship like this is a drop in the bucket for a large corporation. And please no Bombardier, they get enough government support and still pay out a fricking dividend.

    The bigger issue for the sponsorship is the fact that the TV viewing numbers by golf viewers and Cdn viewers especially, will be extremely limited (due to being on the golf channel exclusively, maybe 100,000 viewers per day for the Cdn Open). Even if this a seemingly small amount of money for a large corporation, what benefit do they get if no one watches?


  • Chris from Bryon:

    To quote you:
    ” I believe that a sponsorship like this is a drop in the bucket for a large corporation”. $6M (US) per year is a “drop in the bucket for a Canadian Corporation?…Perhaps your tongue was squarely in your cheek when you wrote this?…hope so. Otherwise, as my Mom used to say, you are dreaming in technicolour…

  • Alfred: I’ve been wondering about how I should respond to your initial post since I came home from Mexico. To be frank, I think you are a bit of an ass — you are right, you don’t know who my sources are, but if you don’t trust that I know what I’m writing about and that I can pick a good source from a bad one, then why do you bother to stop by?
    As for your contention that only the RCGA and IMG would know about golf sponsorship, well you demonstrate your ignorance on the subject then. Almost every large Canadian corporation does some sort of sponsorship work. How they determine the value often is dependent on who they get to do the work. Do they do it inhouse? Do they hire a media buyer to determine the value? Do they hire IMG? Needless to say there are many, many organizations that can present some sense of the difficulty of raising a sponsorship for a large sports property. Rick Janes, the commissioner of the Canadian Tour, used to do it for a living. So to contend that my “sources” have to be wrong because if they don’t come from either the RCGA or IMG they must not know what they are doing is just stupid. You, frankly, don’t know what you are talking about.
    And yes, for the right company $5 million is a small amount. But it is complicated by the fact that “right” company must also want exposure south of the border. That limits the field, which is probably the issue facing the RCGA right now.

    Oh and as for the RCGA being successful at sponsorship, by my count they’ve lost more sponsors in recent years than they’ve found (AT&T, BMO, Bell). Ever wonder why that’s the case?

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