TORONTO Despite the current economic challenges, corporate sponsorships are on the rise at the 2009 RBC Canadian Open, which began Monday and continues until Sunday at Oakville's Glen Abbey Golf Club. “This year we’ve got more sponsors than ever,” said James Laidlaw, director of business development for the Royal Canadian Golf Association, which produces the P.G.A. Tour event. “We’re actually up about 20 per cent, which is spectacular.” (Twenty companies supported the tournament this year.)
“I think that the smart marketing companies are still spending money,” said Laidlaw, who credits the Royal Bank of Canada's title sponsorship with taking the event to the next level. “The economy impacted hospitality sales; that seems to be the one area that was affected. Ticket sales were down. But of course now that Michael Jordan is playing [in the Mike Weir Charity Classic pro-am], ticket sales have gone through the roof.”
This year's tournament—the 100th playing of the Open—included the inaugural Mike Weir Charity Classic, held Monday. The pro-am included celebrities like Jordan, Kevin Costner, and former hockey player Paul Coffey, as well as stars of the P.G.A. Tour. “This was specifically designed. A team of four people costs $35,000, and all the money goes to the charity, which is the Mike Weir Foundation and the Reach Out Centre for Kids,” said Laidlaw.
In addition to the corporate skyboxes erected surrounding the 17th and 18th greens, the weeks-long installation at Glen Abbey included the construction of a Spectator Village—complete with activations from event sponsors like LG Electronics Canada, Sunoco, and Pepsi—Corona Extra's Coronaville Beer Garden, an outdoor concession area and the site of the Pengrowth Concert Series, where Costner, Bachman Cummings, and Tom Cochrane will perform for attendees throughout the week.
“The reality is they’ve done everything they can to make this a world-class event and it’s showing,“ Laidlaw said of RBC, which signed a five-year title sponsorship deal in 2008. “The event has a life of its own. Michael Jordan is here because of RBC, because of what they’ve done with this tournament.”
Bell Canada, the tournament's former title sponsor and second largest partner after RBC, hosted two communication centres where spectators can access laptop computers and LG cell phones. “At a golf course, you can't bring phones,” Laidlaw said. White lounge furniture filled the tented (and air-conditioned) areas in the Spectator Village and adjacent to the clubhouse.
Event sponsor BMW Canada also created several activations on the grounds. Upon arrival in Toronto, P.G.A. pros received a BMW vehicle to drive for the duration of the tournament, and any player who sinks a hole-in-one on the 15th hole during this week's championship will win a 2009 BMW Z4 Roadster. The company also offered V.I.P. parking to BMW drivers attending the event and shuttled spectators from the public parking lot to the Glen Abbey gates.
“It provides us with a great venue to showcase and display our vehicles. It's clearly Canada's premier golf event, and to align ourselves with the event provides tremendous leverage for the brand,” said Kevin Marcotte, BMW Canada's director of marketing.
Additional event sponsors include the Royal Canadian Golf Association, TaylorMade, Wolf Blass, The Globe & Mail, Transitions, Glenlivet Single Malt Scotch Whisky, Reader's Digest, Sunoco, Q107, and the Toronto Sun.