RBC To Sponsor Heritage; Canadian Open Negotiations Ongoing

In news that was a little unexpected — if only because it hadn’t been discussed for a few months and it comes during the U.S. Open — RBC announced today that it will sponsor a second tournament — the Heritage in Hilton Head. The tournament had been running without a sponsor and few expected it to last another year.

RBC put in an offer on the tournament two months ago, says Jim Little, RBC’s chief brand and communications officer.

“And then it sort of went dormant,” he adds.

Event organizers searched for a secondary sponsor for the tournament, and then came back to RBC. The deal will be announced with a press conference at 1 pm.

“This gives us the sort of presence we were hoping for,” says Little. “Clients love it at the event.”

Little says he talked to 40 pros when he was down this summer to get a sense of why the event is so successful. He said feedback was exceptionally positive, adding the event will move back to its traditional spot on the PGA Tour’s calendar, right after the Masters.

Little says the deal, along with the Canadian Open, and the arrangement with the PGA of America, gives RBC a lot of media access throughout the U.S. These sorts of sponsorships come with extensive television commercial ties.

“It gives us media that we can spin out almost every week,” he says. “We can be on TV almost all the time.”

As for the Canadian Open, sources say a deal is “99% complete,” for RBC to sign on for another five years.

Little wouldn’t confirm that, saying the RBC Heritage deal gives the bank some leverage in those negotiations.

As for what the bank paid for its sponsorship of the Heritage, Little wouldn’t confirm. The bank sponsors the Canadian Open at a discounted rate less than the standard $8-million for a typical PGA Tour event.

“You know me,” Little said. “I seek value in all of our marketing functions. We took that same approach with this one.”

For those interested, here’s a piece I wrote for the National Post on RBC’s golf strategy. Once again, the Heritage deal was led by Steve Marshman’s Catalyst Sports group.

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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.

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