The second annual Kearns Global Business Lecture at St. Bonaventure University focused on the successful and philanthropic business model of the PGA TOUR.
Richard P. Kearns is a 1972 graduate of St. Bonaventure and a senior advisor for Zurich Insurance Group; he retired from Zurich in 2011. Kearns brought together a panel of five experts in the golf industry: Julie Tyson, vice president of business development for the PGA TOUR; Dan Robertson, publisher of Golf Digest & Golf World; Zack Rosenburg, co-founder and CEO of St. Bernard Project; Patrice Parente, former group head of Global Events for Zurich Insurance Group; and Ben Gannett, co-head of golf for Creative Artists Agency Sports.
“The PGA TOUR is a great business story,” said Kearns at the start of the event, which drew approximately 250 attendees to the Rigas Theater of the Quick Center for the Arts.
He noted that it is a unique business model that has achieved success because it is built on the strength of charitable donations and community service.
Kearns interviewed each panelist as a way to highlight the many layers and integration involved in the successful PGA TOUR business model.
Tyson explained that all of the PGA TOUR tournaments are structured as charity events, with net profits going back to the host community—an amount that equaled $130 million in 2013.
She said that giving back is a tradition of the PGA TOUR, one that began in 1938 with a $10,000 donation to charity by PGA TOUR players at the Palm Beach Invitational. Over the course of a little more than 70 years, total giving reached one billion dollars.
“And then it caught fire,” Tyson said, adding that it took only “eight years to get to $2 billion in giving.”
The players, fans, volunteers and sponsors have all been instrumental in reaching this amount, she said.
Tyson explained that it is “a sponsor model that works” and one that holds three important pieces: a memorable brand element, a unique customer experience, and strong economic impact on the community.
Gannett pointed out that sponsorship of a PGA TOUR is “not just a sign on an arena, but an integrated package.”
Forming a partnership with the PGA TOUR brings advertising with partner networks, offers opportunities to interact with the players, and leaves a positive economic impact on the host community, he said.
Robertson shared that Golf Digest is a corporate sponsor and official marketing partner with the PGA TOUR. It is through this partnership that the story of the PGA TOUR is kept alive and amplified year-round.
“We are a content company. Whatever device you have in your pocket, in your briefcase, or on your desk, you will find Golf Digest there,” he said. “We are positioned to be anywhere the consumer wants the content.”
Of the 19 magazines and 23 websites in the Condé Nast mass media family, Golf Digest is the only brand that controls its own licensed content, he said. That content is pushed out to 29 magazines across the globe every month.
Parente discussed the details involved in planning the PGA Zurich Classic of New Orleans, which is sponsored by the Zurich Insurance Group.
“Always expect the unexpected,” Parente advised as she recounted the logistics involved in dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in which the host golf course and hotels were damaged. In 2006, the Zurich Classic was the first nationally televised sporting event after the disaster.
Parente explained that Zurich focuses on the customer experience. “Zurich brings customers in for several days, plus offers joint sessions with their sponsors. We pack a lot into the week, allowing the customers to get a much better sense of what Zurich is as a company,” she said.
Rosenburg offered a glimpse of the good work done in New Orleans and around the country because of the PGA TOUR and the commitment of companies like Zurich Insurance Group.
“Playing golf is all about relationships,” he said. “It’s not a transactional thing in any way. It’s people together in an endeavor to do their best.”
Funded by Kearns and his wife, Maureen, the Kearns Global Business Lecture Series annually brings industry leaders to St. Bonaventure who offer diverse perspectives on global business matters.
About the University: The nation’s first Franciscan university, St. Bonaventure University cultivates graduates who are confident and creative communicators, collaborative leaders and team members, and innovative problem solvers who are respectful of themselves, others, and the diverse world around them. We are establishing pathways to internships, graduate schools and careers in the context of our renowned liberal arts tradition. Our students are becoming extraordinary.
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