Royal Bank Inks Deal with PGA of America for Ryder Cup, PGA Championship, adds Donald, Couples and Pressel to its Player Roster

RBC-BankAs expected, RBC has just announced a deal that will see it not only sponsor the PGA of American for three years, with options for additional years, but will see its brand aligned with the PGA Championship and the Ryder Cup. No figures were announced, but sources peg the deal at about $20-million for the three-year term.

Here are the details from the just-released press material:

Each PGA Official Patron is recognized with unprecedented visibility and marketing exposure at the PGAs highest-profile Championships. RBC designations from 2010-12 in the PGA Official Patron Program:

¢ Official Bank of The PGA of America
¢ Official Patron of the PGA Championship, Senior PGA Championship, PGA Grand Slam of Golf
¢ Official Bank of the PGA Championship, Senior PGA Championship, PGA Grand Slam of Golf
¢ Proud Supporter of the 2010 and 2012 Ryder Cup
¢ Co-presenting Sponsor of PGA Play Golf America Days

Among the activities and sponsorship opportunities that RBC will have in the program are:

¢ Serving as host to a Fan Experience at PGA Championships and the 2012 Ryder Cup
¢ Providing exclusive ATM service for spectators at select PGA major championships
¢ Sponsor of the golf shop cashier program at the PGA Championship, Senior PGA Championship and 2012 Ryder Cup
¢ Serving as a co-presenting sponsor of PGA Play Golf America Days, and at similar activities that incorporate the PGA Professional brand of golf instruction in key financial centers and markets in advance of the PGA Championship and Ryder Cup
¢ Supporting the PGA Championship, Ryder Cup and PGA Grand Slam of Golf through substantial media commitments on air, online and in print

The other news includes player signings in addition to Anthony Kim, Mike Weir and Stephen Ames (and indirectly Chris Baryla and Graham DeLaet) who were already signed as “Team RBC:”

RBC today announced that PGA TOUR professionals Fred Couples, Luke Donald, and LPGA standout Morgan Pressel have joined Anthony Kim, Stephen Ames and Mike Weir, formally launching Team RBC as part of the banks expanded commitment to golf as a global brand and marketing platform.

RBC becomes the official banking and financial services partner for each athlete and, as part of Team RBC, all players will carry RBC branded golf bags and will be featured in RBC marketing and advertising planned for the U.S., Canada, and international markets.

Under an embargo, I spoke with Jim Little at RBC yesterday afternoon. Little is the man who ran Bell Canada’s sponsorship of the Canadian Open, and then brought RBC into the picture when he joined the bank. Though he wouldn’t disclose a figure other than to say “RBC is really deep into golf,” one has to figure the bank is paying upwards of $15-million per year for its affiliations to the game, from the player deals through to the Canadian Open sponsorship and now the PGA of America.

“We’ve chosen golf as our [marketing] platform and we’re doing it at the highest level,” Little explained from his Florida hotel room.

He said announcing the deal was the latest step in a three-step process, which started with acquiring the naming rights to the Canadian Open, and then included signing players like Weir, Ames, Donald and Kim.

When asked what effect this had on the Canadian Open, Little said it could actually improve the event, given the connections the PGA Championship and Ryder Cup will given the bank. He added about 80% of the cost of the deal — which he would not disclose — is directed at the media buy with the television networks. RBC will have a presence in both the U.S. and European broadcasts of the Ryder Cup in Wales this fall, he said.

“If we’re not already there, we’re clearly going to be seen as one of the emerging playters in the game,” he explained.

What does this say for the Canadian Open? Little said the bank would always be investigating options, and that all of its marketing properties would be examined following the Olympics. While he said the bank considered several options, he said the PGA of America made the most sense given the bank’s ambitions.

When you think about the order of RBC’s deals, they make sense. The bank connected with the Canadian Open in 2007, then inked deals with Weir and Ames, and put cash into Canadian amateur golf before finalizing the PGA of America deal. No one in Canada can claim the bank has overlooked Canada before it went forward with this latest arrangement, and the deal with Donald all but guarantees that one of Europe’s top young players will be in Canada once a year.

Will this benefit the Canadian Open? Little thinks it might — obviously RBC is going to be more recognized on the world stage, and that can’t hurt the top Canadian event. It won’t necessarily bring new players to the tournament, but then a new date wouldn’t have guaranteed that either. In this respect RBC gets the exposure it wants without risking millions more on the Canadian Open without a guarantee of a better field. I wonder whether RBC’s position might have been altered had a one-in-four rule come into place forcing every PGA Tour player to show up once every four years.

It is also worth noting that Pressel is represented by Chris Armstrong of IMG, the young Canadian agent who also looks after the careers of Stephen Ames and Anthony Kim. See a connection here?

My analysis of the deal can be found in today’s Sympatico “3 Off the Tee” column.

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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

  • is giving millions of dollars to Pressel, Couples, Weir, Ames, etc considered a commitment for golf? from reading your column it appears to me that RBC has signed an agreement to spend a lot more money overthe next three years. What are interest rates these days – are they going up?

  • Well, if the investment is in the neighbourhood you mention it strikes me that RBC should be in line to snag a WGC moniker for the CDN Open. That would solve the problem of a weak field, get the date sorted out & vastly elevate the status of our national tourney. Get on it RBC.

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