ORLANDO, Fla. – As much as a line delivered to Jim Little, chief brand and communications officer for RBC, was meant as a joke, there could have been truth to it, considering the pace in which RBC is deepening its commitment to golf these days.
“So, its there any truth to the rumour that RBC is buying Augusta National?” he was asked.
“I can’t comment on that one,” replied Little, leaving a little bit of doubt.
Seriously, it’s not going to happen. At least, we don’t think it’s going to happen, but then again
Venerable golf venues aside, RBC is planting some deep roots in the game. On Thursday here at the PGA Merchandise Show, it was announced that the title sponsor for the Canadian Open is partnering in a big way with the PGA of America. See the News Now story on the home page for more information.
It was also announced that Fred Couples, Luke Donald and Morgan Pressel will join Anthony Kim and Canadians Mike Weir and Stephen Ames as “Team RBC” players.
“When we kicked off the RBC Canadian Open and launched our activity in golf, we said at the time this would be an important platform for us to grow our brand outside of Canada as well. We’ve been purposely evaluating options, looking at partnerships, looking at deals,” said Little.
Even the sponsorship of the Canadian Open has a reach into the United States through television coverage of the event, but RBC has strengthened that bond with Thursday’s announcement of the deal with the PGA of America.
RBC is planting seeds in a game that has been struggling of late with a tough economy and other issues. Like a smart investor, it sees potential in a product that may be in tough times now, but could rebound in a big way in the future.
“I think the recession and some of the tough times in the economy helped accelerate some of that value, so as we added all those options together, the PGA of America, being a very local, bottom-up, community-based organization, really fit,” said Little.
“We figured it would give us a great brand hit for the marketing end in the U.S., where we’ve got 15-18,000 employees and business throughout the country,” he added. “It’s giving us an immediate hit in the U.K. (through the Ryder Cup), where we’re building our brand there.”
“Golf is really proving to be a great marketing platform for us. Our clients and our employees are telling us that and they’re very excited,” said Little.
Thursday’s announcement features advantages such as brand recognition both in the U.S. and globally and while that high profile will be among consumers, it also affects in a big way the golf industry.
“It was absolutely part of the thinking with it,” said Little. “(The PGA of America) are the golf industry. They are the 28,000 men and women who work and play in the communities where our advisors and our bankers and our retail branches are located.
“We love the fact that it’s a bottom-up organization. Our brand is built on the communities and localities where our people live, so it’s a natural fit that we could build brand and experience our clients locally and also get those TV units for the major PGA championships and the Ryder Cup that would help us build the halo effect for the brand with the TV viewers.”
It was for those reasons, according to Little, that RBC struck the partnership with the PGA of America, not out of frustration with the PGA Tour, which has been suggested with RBC trying to get a better date for the Canadian Open and reported to be seeking a second tour event for Canada.
“I wouldn’t say this is anything against the PGA Tour,” said Little. “We’ve got a great relationship on the RBC Canadian Open with them. We meet regularly – we met them (Tuesday) – we’ve got four or five issues that we talk about all the time and we’ve got very good and cordial relations.”
With major announcements in both Canada and the United States within a couple of weeks, Little says it’s time to breath a little and doesn’t see anything new forthcoming – but then again, you never know.
“I think we’re going to digest this one and make sure we execute all the assets we just bought and have some fun with it, let our clients experience golf in a very close-up and personal way, but we would like to be fresh and relevant, so we’ll always look for the right fit for RBC.
“I think what we’re announcing is probably going to be it for the foreseeable future. There’s nothing else that’s concrete.”