RBC Steps Up Again: Signs Kim to Deal

Last week it was Stephen Ames. This week it was Mike Weir. And today it is Anthony Kim.

Royal Bank was already a player in golf when it stepped up and sponsored the Canadian Open. It has moved up the list of powerful sponsors as the American meltdown has crippled financial institutions south of the border. RBC, which made more than $1 billion in profit in its last quarter, is now one of the most significant sponsors on the PGA Tour — the 4th largest bank in the U.S. now if you can believe that (by market cap, I assume). And don’t think Tim Finchem hasn’t noticed.

Today the bank (at 11 am apparently) is adding star Anthony Kim to its list of PGA Tour players it is involved with.  Kim showed up at the Canadian Open last year, primarily because his agent, IMG’s wunderkid Chris Armstrong, suggested he attend. He played well for three days and then, well let’s just say he played well for three days. But Kim seemed comfortable in Canada and was apparently impressed by Canada and RBC — at least that’s what the canned quote suggests:

 I realize how important finding the right fit is when it comes to a successful partnership, Kim said. Since I played the RBC Canadian Open last year, Ive been impressed by RBC, its brand and its leadership team, especially as I got to understand more about the companys global reputation as one of the worlds most stable and strong financial institutions.”

This is the more significant part:

Im looking forward to working with the RBC business leaders, meeting their clients, and contending at the RBC Canadian Open for many years to come, Kim said.

Do players come to an event because one of their sponsors is the host sponsor? You bet. Look at Tiger and Accenture or Buick. Will Kim show up at the Canadian Open because RBC is sponsoring him. Sure will. But I bet dimes to dollars that RBC sees more value than just that in Kim. Just showing up at the Canadian Open isn’t enough to interest RBC, which is probably also attracted to Kim’s Asian heritage and his appeal outside of the U.S. It doesn’t hurt that we’ll come for the Canadian Open though. Nothing wrong with that.

Is RBC done? I doubt it. I think we’re finally seeing a company flex its muscles and demonstrate what a strong sponsor can do. Interestingly, Jim Little, the marketing guru at RBC that is running the sponsorship for the bank (though it actually falls under Barb Stymiest, Group Head, Corporate Strategy and Corporate Services), was the man behind the sponsorship for Bell Canada. Bell did little with the sponsorship, especially in the later years that it ran it, but Little seems to have more control or power over what he wants to do with the tournament.

The only thing I don’t buy is RCGA head Scott Simmons assertion that they aren’t considering a new date for the tournament. The week after the British Open is not a good date and there’s no way one can spin it differently.

I’m sure a date a week later — like this one, for instance — would appeal. And who knows how long struggling car companies are going to be able to hold onto their dates. The Buick is also the set-up event for Firestone, and could draw an international field with a stronger sponsor. Golf in Detroit is dead, so that might be a viable option.

Lastly, it will be intriguing to see what the bank does next with the tournament. They have a lousy television deal with the Golf Channel that provides almost no domestic coverage Thurs/Fri. Can’t imagine the bank will sit by and allow that to go on for much longer. The Canadian market is still of central importance to RBC, so it wouldn’t shock me if something is done there as well.

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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.

2 CommentsLeave a comment

  • RBC is making some good moves and of course Finchem & the tour have noticed. He noticed the day RBC took over the sponsorship. When RBC signed their deal, I figured it would take about 3 or 4 years to change the date. With all the turmoil, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a date change next year. Simmons knows it’s the right thing to do and the administrative hassle will be well worth it.

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