RBC Deepens Its Golf Sponsorships

This country has hit the jackpot with the title sponsors of its two biggest professional events, the RBC Canadian Open and the CN Canadian Women’s Open.

Both events, in recent memory, were staggering, but stayed on their feet even if it did seem that the knockout punch would come at any time.

In late 2005, CN came on board to rescue the Canadian Women’s Open and embraced the event by raising its purse and elevating the player and fan experiences to the point of becoming one of the premier events on the LPGA Tour, one worthy of returning to its major status in the opinion of some.

It didn’t end there as CN extended its interest in golf by also embracing the Canadian Women’s Tour for developing female professionals and the Royal Canadian Golf Association’s Future Links junior program for boys and girls.

In late 2007, the floundering Canadian Open got RBC to end years of speculation about the future of the national championship.

There was a short window of opportunity for RBC and RCGA to get the Open up and running at full speed before last year’s event at Glen Abbey in Oakville, Ont., but they did an admirable job, even in brutal weather conditions during tournament week.

The tournament promises to run even smoother at this year’s return to the Abbey and going forward, given RBC’s rock-solid status compared to other financial institutions in this economy and that could influence a change in dates from the clunkers the Open currently holds right behind the British Open.

It’s that economy that made yesterday’s announcement that RBC would become the presenting sponsor and official bank of the Stephen Ames Cup somewhat of a surprise.

With its backing of junior golf and hints that more such efforts are yet to come, RBC is taking the same type of interest as CN did by going beyond the professional events and embracing golf at its grassroots.

“It was a big surprise,” said Ames, who will host the fifth annual Stephen Ames Cup, a Ryder Cup format between juniors from his adopted country of Canada and his birthplace of Trinidad and Tobago, in August in Calgary, where he resides.

The three-time winner on the PGA Tour said it was good to see a corporation “think like I do in respect to trying to help the local communities and trying to give back to the juniors, trying to help the juniors flourish as a person by giving them the opportunity of playing sports,” he said.

RBC’s sponsorship also makes perfect business sense and there is nothing wrong with that. It’s good news for the golf industry when a corporation sees the value of tournament sponsorship. For RBC, a deal that includes Ames, a high profile figure in Canada and the Caribbean, is a perfect fit.

Last year, RBC acquired RBTT, based in Trinidad and Tobago, and the new entity will become one of the largest financial institutions across the Caribbean. With that in mind, the synergies between RBC and the Stephen Ames Cup become clear.

“It bridges two parts of our company and two parts of the world,” said Jim Little, chief brand and communications officer for RBC, adding that RBC and RBTT are still in an integration phase.

Financial details of the arrangement were not announced, but the deal will last through 2012 when the current sponsorship of the Canadian Open also expires, although Little hinted that might be extended. Having Ames attend RBC events will go a long way in Canada and the Caribbean.

“We now have over 7,000 associates working in 18 countries in the Caribbean and, taken together with our U.S. retail operations, we now have nearly 600 retail branches outside of Canada,” said Little.
“We want to use golf and our association with some of the biggest names and most recognizable names in the game to build further brand strength within and outside of Canada.”

With that in mind, Little says RBC’s sponsorship of the Canadian Open has helped further its objective of establishing its brand globally, particularly with the Open being shown on a major network such as CBS.

“(The Open) has become our premier hosting capability in the company,” said Little. “In the first year, our expectations were actually low going into it because we knew we had some work to do, but it’s become our premier hosting for a range of clients.

“The reach that we got from the PGA Tour’s latest media results was beyond our expectations,” said Little, adding that more golf sponsorships could be on the way from RBC.

“There’s a potential for much more to come, whether it’s through Stephen and his program, or with other programs we’re looking at. We do a lot of local golf activities that we’re rolling up into the program under the RBC Canadian Open,” said Little.

“We also are trying to fix a lot of things at the same time, which is happening quickly – the on-site experience (at the Open) etc. – so the short answer is there’s likely more to come,” he added.

“We’re looking at three or four things right now, but I don’t think we’ll be announcing those this year,” said Little.

In the current economic climate, that’s good news as is the fact that a major corporation sees golf sponsorship as a win-win situation instead of cutting back.

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