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This Tech-Forward Morgan Stanley Activation Made Golf More Accessible to New Fans

At this weekend's Players Championship, the brand used AR, refreshed on-site experiences, and an expanded charitable initiative to connect with both old and new fans of the sport.

Morgan Stanley's Sponsorship at The Players Championship
Morgan Stanley has partnered with The Players Championship for the last eight years—so for this year's 50th anniversary tournament, the brand offered refreshed hospitality spaces, an expanded charitable initiative, and a cutting-edge AR activation.
Photo: David Christopher Banks

PALM VALLEY, FLA.—Morgan Stanley is a longtime partner of The Players Championship—so when the annual PGA Tour golf tournament was celebrating its 50th anniversary this past weekend, the brand knew it wanted to do something big that could appeal to both old and new fans of the sport.

“Last year, we launched a new brand campaign called 'Old School Grit. New World Ideas,' which was all about the legacy and history of the firm combined with innovation and technology that Morgan Stanley had gained through the acquisition of E*TRADE, Eaton Vance, and others," explained Morgan Stanley chief marketing officer Alice Milligan. "Balancing history and legacy with vision and innovation is important to us—and really tied into the tournament's 50th anniversary."

Morgan Stanley's Sponsorship at The Players ChampionshipPGA Tour champion Justin Rose provided narration and stories for each moment.Photo: Courtesy of Morgan StanleyTo tie those themes together, Morgan Stanley created a consumer-facing augmented reality (AR) experience called “Tour Through Time," which allowed fans to reexperience nine iconic moments from the tournament directly from their mobile phones—regardless of whether they were on site at TPC Sawgrass (the tournament's host from March 14-17) or at their homes. To add an extra layer of interaction, Morgan Stanley ambassador and PGA Tour champion Justin Rose provided exclusive narration and stories for each moment.

Morgan Stanley worked with extended reality (XR) company Trigger to develop the experience, which allowed users to pick one of nine holes from their phones. With each selection, an avatar of Rose popped up and invited fans to watch a video of an iconic moment in golf history.

“We wanted to make sure these moments were things that people from different generations would remember," noted Milligan, whose team worked directly with the PGA Tour to choose which moments to highlight.

When asked where the idea for the AR component came from, the Morgan Stanley team cited an Accenture study that showed 50% of consumers would better recall brands that regularly engage them with immersive technologies. To the financial services company, it was all about connecting with a digitally native next-generation audience and making the sport of golf more accessible for everyone. Morgan Stanley's Sponsorship at The Players ChampionshipOn site, the Morgan Stanley Fan Experience tent was open to all tournament attendees.Photo: David Christopher Banks

But the idea of making golf more accessible expanded beyond just the tech components. For the eighth consecutive year, Morgan Stanley donated $5,000 for each eagle made at the championship to the nonprofit organization's First Tee’s Coach Diversity Initiative. The giveback initiative was part of the brand's Eagles for Impact program, through which Morgan Stanley has donated more than $1.68 million to First Tee to date—funding 195 coaches across the country. (To honor the tournament's 50-year legacy this year, Morgan Stanley also donated an additional $50,000 to commemorate the 50th eagle secured on the course.)

"It ties into one of the things we’ve seen in financial services. Whether it’s women or diverse groups, many times they feel financial services can be a bit intimidating," pointed out Milligan. "What we’ve seen is if you provide empowerment tools, coaching, and mentoring, and you speak in a transparent way, it makes financial services more accessible. We see the same with the game of golf; if you empower people, if they see coaches that look like them, it opens up the world of golf to a whole new generation of people—like the 800,000-plus American women who took up the game between 2020 and 2022." Morgan Stanley's Sponsorship at The Players ChampionshipVisitors to the tent could re-create three of the putts that had been featured in the "Tour Through Time" experience.Photo: David Christopher Banks

Morgan Stanley also activated in person at The Players Championship, refreshing its on-site hospitality lounges and Fan Experience Tent to add more moments that tied into the 50th anniversary. At the fan tent, in-person guests could check out the “Tour Through Time” AR journey; visitors who made it through all the AR moments for themselves were eligible to receive an exclusive 50th anniversary The Players and Morgan Stanley hat.

For an added layer of interaction, visitors to the tent could re-create three of the featured putts, using the same clubs the player had used, at a putting green experience. The brand also evoked the "Old School Grit. New World Ideas" concept through components like creative mocktails, cocktails, and menu items, and through campaign imagery and TV spots that played throughout the on-site spaces. 

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