When Hawes took the reins of the licensing arm of the PGA TOUR in 2007, he faced a tough global economy. “That period resulted in a number of licensees constricting the number of licenses they were taking to the marketplace,” Hawes recalls. “Licensors like us had to provide a more compelling brand story and foundation in order to keep those licensees doing business with us in that challenging economic environment.”
The PGA TOUR brand’s name recognition was a key asset in Hawes’ efforts to maintain the company’s licensing business. “We have a brand that is widely recognized, not only with regard to the sport, but also with regard to lifestyle, so that helped us grow our business every year during that period,” Hawes recalls.
Hawes notes that the PGA TOUR brand is in a unique position, with its product entering more than 835 million homes in 229 countries via televised events. “That exposure has made it possible to reach consumers who have an affinity to the brand and purchase goods and services associated with the brand,” he says.
Besides television, which enters 130 million homes in the United States alone, the PGA TOUR has a strong presence in social media and the Internet. “We have the most-visited website in the industry, pgatour.com,” Hawes says. “[pgatour.com] is visited by more fans than any other golf-centric website. We have also a rapidly growing fan base on Twitter, Facebook and Google Plus, with hundreds of thousands of followers receiving information about us on a daily and hourly basis.”
Hawes’ job is to make sure that the PGA TOUR brand continues to be delivered to its licensees in a robust fashion that creates energy and enthusiasm among consumers, and motivates them to interact with the brand.
The scope of licensees the PGA TOUR has under its umbrella range from the traditional to the innovative. Inside airports, the company has some partnerships that illustrate its variety of approaches. On the traditional side, the company has partnered with Paradies, a retailer that operates stores exclusively at airports. Paradies has 33 PGA TOUR stores in airports around the United States and Canada. “It’s a very important tool for us to get our message, our mission and our content out to the consumer,” Hawes says.
PGA TOUR apparel is also available in many retail stores. The golf-centric brand is sold by more than 5,000 retailers in the United States alone. PGA TOUR’s apparel can be found at Macy’s, Edwin Watts and JC Penney’s, to name a few.
On a more innovative note, the golf company has entered a licensing agreement with HMSHost to open PGA TOUR-themed restaurants at airports. “HMSHost is the clear leader domestically in the airport restaurant channel,” Hawes explains. “We are going to open a chain of PGA TOUR Grills in major airports around the country, with the goal to get to 20 restaurants within the next five years.”
The first restaurant in this partnership will open in San Diego by late 2013 or the beginning of 2014. The concept for the restaurants will be health-centric, providing customers fresh-quality, low-calorie food in a fun and energetic environment. “One of the major initiatives of the PGA TOUR is health and wellness, so these restaurants will give us a terrific platform to deliver that health and wellness message to millions of consumers a year,” Hawes notes.
Each PGA TOUR Grill will have a different theme according to the specific tournament traditionally held in the area. In San Diego, for instance, the restaurant will feature memorabilia from the Farmer’s Insurance Open. The restaurants will not sell merchandise so they don’t compete with the PGA TOUR retailers located in the same airports. However, restaurants and retailers might run cross-promotional specials to encourage customers at one outlet to visit the other.
Outside airports, the organization licenses a variety of brick and mortar venues, such as the PGA TOUR Superstores. “These stores average approximately 50,000 square feet and see about 400,000 customers per year,” Hawes explains. “With the chain having grown to 16 stores, we are looking at interacting with between six and seven million golfers a year.”
The PGA TOUR is also exploring partnerships that would allow it to open stores in Europe, Latin America, and to further its presence in Asia. In China, it has partnered with Oriental Albatross and is rapidly expanding the brand to new outlets across the country.
One of the partnerships that is expanding the brand’s presence internationally – into Latin America and Canada, specifically – is the PGA TOUR’s partnership with Perry Ellis International Inc. Perry Ellis has been the PGA TOUR’s primary manufacturer of apparel for the past 10 years and has a partnership agreement in place through 2017. It is an exclusive apparel licensee for the PGA TOUR, Champions Tour and Web.com Tour brands within department and chain stores.
The expansion of the PGA TOUR apparel lines into the Canadian and Latin American markets this spring consists of a line of clothing for men, women and children, including polos, shorts, slacks and outerwear inspired by the golf lifestyle. Although this expansion is very recent, the PGA TOUR is already reporting outstanding results.
Perry Ellis’ commitment to the PGA TOUR brand was reinforced earlier this year when the company announced its first team of player ambassadors to promote the PGA TOUR apparel line. Perry Ellis hired six PGA TOUR players to endorse and wear its apparel. The team of player ambassadors, led by Jason Dufner, ranked 12th player in the world, will also include top-tier players Kevin Na, Jeff Maggert, Robert Streb, Darron Stiles and Wes Short Jr.
The six player ambassadors will wear the PGA TOUR Pro Series line of technical apparel exclusively every week when they play on tour. To promote the new partnership, a television and print media campaign featuring Dufner debuted in May on the Golf Channel.
But the PGA TOUR is not only about retail and merchandising. “Giving back to local communities through our tournaments is a foundational element of what the PGA TOUR is all about,” Hawes says. “In the history of the PGA TOUR, over $1.8 billion have been contributed to local charities through our tournaments.”
This is passed along to its licensing partners. “Charity work is a component of our business model that is always at the forefront of what we do. We work closely with our 110 licensees around the world to help them develop local, charitable platforms that will allow them to be part of the tour’s overall focus on philanthropy,” Hawes says. “That is something that is at the very core of our overall business and something we evaluate when we enter into a partnership with a licensee.”