Zurich Insurance Group Ltd. has taken a decidedly old-school approach to activation around this week’s Zurich Classic of New Orleans PGA Tour stop.

Looking to promote its 100-year anniversary in the U.S. market, the Swiss insurance giant leveraged the April 23-29 event with a three-hole charity golf tournament that featured Keegan Bradley, Graeme McDowell and five other pro golfers that play under the Zurich banner.  

The catch: The athletes competed in the event using antique golf clubs and wearing turn-of-the-century clothing.

“It’s been fun watching them prance around in their outfits. They’re more concerned about being the best-dressed player than winning on the course,” said Dick Kearns, a Zurich Insurance Group senior advisor.

Zurich created the event to support a year-long advertising campaign that celebrates the company’s U.S. centennial.

“We took stock of existing sponsorships to commemorate the anniversary, and the Zurich Classic is one of our largest undertakings.  We discovered that 1912 was a huge year in golf with the birth of Bryon Nelson, Ben Hogan and Sam Sneed and the legendary impact they had on the game.”

Zurich hopes to gain exposure for the event on the Golf Channel and other media outlets, said Kearns, noting that Golf Channel Morning Drive host Gary Williams covered the event wearing period clothes.

The company also plans to distribute content from the event through its Web site and on DVDs that it will give to customers. Zurich hosted roughly 700 customers and prospects at the tournament.

Zurich signed title of the Zurich Classic in 2005 as part of a golf-centric global marketing strategy. The company uses the platform to gain a point of differentiation from Allianz SE, AXA and other insurance companies that focus on Formula One, professional soccer and other types of properties, said Kearns.  

“Of all of our competitors, we have the most global footprint. The global aspect of golf was very appealing to us.”

Zurich broadened its presence on the golf scene in 2009 with a tie to the inaugural Asian Amateur Golf Championship.  It also is mulling an involvement with the PGA Tour’s inaugural development tour in South America.

“We’re watching to see what happens ahead of the Olympics,” said Kearns, who manages the company’s global sponsorship programs after retiring last year from the position of chief administrative officer.

Zurich in 2011 kicked off the player ambassador program to extend the golf platform beyond tournaments. The company expanded the program later in the year with a partnership with Bradley, the 2011 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year.

The company takes the ambassadors to customer events around the world.

“There are only so many customers you can bring to an event. We wanted to expand our sponsorships throughout the year,” said Kearns, who picked out players in part based on their popularity in specific geographic areas.

Zurich also sponsors the PGA Tour Farmers Insurance Open, an event titled by its Farmers Insurance Group, Inc. subsidiary.

Zurich earlier this month changed its name from Zurich Financial Services Group to reflect its focus on insurance products. 

CAA Sports helps Zurich develop sponsorship strategy.