Hush Money: Wells Fargo remains Quail Hollow’s silent backer
Sponsoring a PGA Tour event is no easy task. First off, there’s the money involved in running the event, usually upwards of $5-plus millions dollars just to have your name plastered all over the course and on television. Secondly, you’ve got to find a way to make you tournament worthwhile for not only the fans that show up, but the tour players as well. While running an event with Tiger Woods in the field tends to make things easier, there’s no doubting that there’s a unique formula to making the event profitable for all parties involved.
The economic downturn of the past couple of years really changed the sponsorship landscape. As of today, the tour has the arduous task of helping nine tournaments find sponsors for the 2011 season. That, in and of itself, is a monumental task.
But something that makes the task even more difficult is the high-wire act that current potential sponsors are having to maneuver. Northern Trust set the stage for all future PGA Tour tournament sponsors when they came under fire for spending money to run hospitality events at the Los Angeles-based event just last year.
The intense scrutiny has put a lot current tournament sponsors on edge. Wells Fargo is one of those sponsors that runs a high-profile tournament (Quail Hollow Championship), yet refuses to make their sponsorship known for fear of getting ripped by the national media.
The Charlotte Business Journal had a very intriguing piece in today’s paper, chronicling the lengths that Well Fargo goes to to keep their name out of the spotlight.
Hirshland declines to comment on Wells Fargo and the Quail Hollow Championship because of her company’s role in creating the Charlotte tournament.
Wells Fargo has offered few details of how it will use the tournament this year. What once served as a rallying point that included private concerts for top clients featuring the likes of James Taylor has now become a platform for promoting literacy campaigns and appearances by bank executives and PGA Tour players at area schools. Philanthropy has always been a major part of the bank’s tournament sponsorship through annual donations to Teach for America. But the former Wachovia also invested heavily in VIP parties and receptions.
Those days are gone, with signature events such as a private block party at Phillips Place on hiatus each of the past two years. “There won’t be any large-scale off-course events,” says Matt Wadley, a bank spokesman. “It’s pretty conservative” compared with what the bank used to do, he says.
For a tournament to spend $7 million to run an event and not want to plaster their name on everything is the polar opposite to the way things have been done in the past. But so long as prospective sponsors continue to come back to the tour each year, it really doesn’t matter how they promote their company at the end of the day.
Even still, the fact that a company would purposely decide to hide their name from a major PGA Tour event shows you the fragile state of our current economy at the moment.