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Why McGladrey Sponsors A PGA Event

Chicago Business, October 17, 2012

By Danny Ecker

This week's third annual McGladrey Classic at Sea Island Resort in southeast Georgia won't get a lot of attention beyond golf die-hards, but that's no problem for its Chicago-based sponsor.

Accounting firm McGladrey LLP jumped at the opportunity to bolster its brand awareness when, in 2009, the PGA Tour approached it about putting its name on a new fall event, to be hosted by veteran Davis Love III.

"We're trying to become the first-choice adviser for middle-market companies and were thinking, where do we put our limited dollars for brand awareness?" said McGladrey CEO Joe Adams. "We decided to pull the trigger (on the tournament sponsorship), and we've been extremely happy with the results."

Sponsoring the PGA Fall Series tournament, which Mr. Adams says is the company's largest single marketing expense of the year — he wouldn't disclose exactly how much — costs an estimated $4 million to $5 million annually, according sponsorship experts, slightly less than average for summer PGA events that attract the world's top-ranked players.

The tournament will feature only a few well-known players like Ryder Cup teammates Jim Furyk and (McGladrey endorser) Zach Johnson and won't have any of the world's 10 top-ranked players and is only broadcast on the Golf Channel.

But that's the right fit for the world's fifth-largest accounting firm by revenue, says Mr. Adams, who points to the value of controlling the client entertainment experience that comes with being a title sponsor, as opposed to being one of many official sponsors for a larger event.

"We evaluated alternatives in advertising, and our best target audience was reached through golf at the C-suite level," he said.

The company, whose Chicago clients are primarily private equity firms including LaSalle Capital Group, Wynnchurch Capital and CHS Capital, among others, hosts three "waves" of clients during the week.

"If it's your tournament, you have more flexibility on things like getting your players in the Pro-Am event and making sure you've got the best tent on the 18th hole," said Jim Andrews, senior vice president at Chicago-based sports marketing firm IEG. "It probably doesn't make sense for (McGladrey) to go with a tournament on network television with the kinds of costs that come with that. They don't need exposure to those types of viewers."

The tournament next year, however, could get some added attention, since the PGA Tour will count the fall series tournaments toward the FedEx Cup standings.