First there was Anthony Kim, Mike Weir, Fred Couples, Stephen Ames, Luke Donald and Morgan Pressel.
Today Royal Bank of Canada added some big guns to its “Team RBC” package, including two-time Canadian Open champ Jim Furyk, multiple major winner Ernie Els and money machine Matt Kuchar.
What does this mean?
Consider the headline of the press release RBC sent out this morning:
RBC BUILDS MOMENTUM IN GOLF FOR 2011 BY PARTNERING WITH PGA TOUR STARS JIM FURYK, ERNIE ELS AND MATT KUCHAR
Player ambassadors to champion important charitable causes
That deck should likely read: RBC grabs top pros for Canadian Open, outings with top corporate clients. I don’t mean that facetiously — that’s the truth to the deal. When you consider it in the context of the Canadian Open, this is a bit of a coup. It basically means Els, Kuchar and Furyk will play at Shaughnessy — something that was far from likely otherwise, considering the length of the flight from the British Open and the time zone changes. Els hasn’t played the Canadian Open in more than a decade (I remember seeing him at Glen Abbey in 1999, I think), while Kuchar’s star rose since he appeared at St. George’s last summer. Furyk is a perennial star and should have already been playing the Canadian Open every year considering he’s won it twice. That said, he skipped it last year, despite the fact St. George’s would have suited him.
The deal will mean RBC will have at least four (at least currently) of the Top 15 players in the world in its field. Not bad considering the Europeans aren’t coming, nor are Woods or likely to show. It also means changing the date, which is adjacent to the British Open, is less of a consideration. A new date would cost RBC millions more each year — and there would be no guarantee Woods or Mickelson would show. RBC can’t pay appearance fees to its players — but let’s not talk around what has gone on here. The PGA Tour has long looked the other way, which is why Woods showed up at GM events when he was endorsing their products. Nothing wrong with this at all, and in fact it is proving to be a smart and effective strategy on behalf of RBC. The bank buys into big events — the Ryder Cup and PGA Championship — and now adds key players to shore up its golf marketing strategy and support the Canadian Open. Smart.
I spoke with Jim Little, chief brand and communications officer with RBC, briefly about the deal. Little says RBC now has 30 days with golf pros to use for its various business units, something the bank is finding great demand for.
“This is an expansion of the ambassador program and gives us 365-day coverage,” Little said. Little says Els is an “international presence,” while Kuchar will be connected to the bank through his hometown of Atlanta. Furyk has long been someone the bank hoped to have a link with, Little added.
As for the Canadian Open, Little said the need for a new date was becoming much less of a focus for the bank. The PGA Tour’s television deal ends after 2012, and RBC is committed to its players, the PGA deal and the Canadian Open until that point. Currently RBC gets a cut-rate deal on the Canadian Open because of its proximity to the British Open; Golf Canada, which lost money again last year, would like to see the bank cough up more cash for the tournament. The way RBC sees it, they’ve spent the money to improve the tournament — that’s part of what the ambassador program is about. Now it is time for Golf Canada to take the improved tournament and sell it to secondary sponsors. That said, Little says the bank is fully committed to the event: “If you remember on the first day we said we’d be involved with the Canadian Open, we said we’d put a lot of RBC’s marketing muscle behind it,” he says. “We’ve done that and it is in our interests to continue activating that and doing well with it.”
“The date [of the Canadian Open] has stopped being central for us,” Little says. “If they came to us with another date we’d consider it, but it isn’t our focus.”
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The date has got to change. RBC has made a big investment and while it’s tough to quanify & measure this stuff (even though they no doubt do), they’ve clearly paid top dollar in terms of value. Time for the PGA tour to cough up. Golf Canada may be under the gun on a few fronts, but surely they now have enough ammo to improve the date. Let’s hope Finchem isn’t like Bettman.
HenryE: I don’t think they are too worried about a new date. Here’s why: RBC pays about half of the cost of a typical PGA Tour event. Then they went out and spent cash to make sure certain players would show up. Would the field honestly be that much better with a different date and what would that date be? RBC could kick out another $4M a year and still not get Tiger or Phil to show up — and frankly those are the only two players that would make a huge difference.
I think RBC has found a work-around for their current date — and I’m not sure, given the PGA of America investment — that they are overly concerned about change.
However, that doesn’t mean the PGA Tour won’t offer a new date as part of the 2012 television deal.
Sorry RT, just seeing this now. I think RBC & the PGA Tour make reasonably good partners. From the PGA’s perspective, RBC is a much better sponsor than most. I don’t see RBC staying if the PGA tour doesn’t offer anything up – and I don’t mean at the 11th hour – that’ll be too late. RBC has done everything right. The history of half of the PGA tour stops is non-existent. Having the Scottish Open, followed by the Open, followed by the CDN Open just doesn’t make sense. I know most will retort that the prestige of the Scottish & CDN are irrelevant, but the marketing opportunity is there if they take advantage of it. Barclays sponsor the Scottish. RBC the CDN. These PGA guys just need to wake up (yes I know the Scottish is a Euro Tour event).
why is RBC sponsoring golf and other athletes yet increasing the fees of its customers? Does Jim Furyk even have an RBC account? This is another case of stealing from the poor to feed the rich