This Player For Hire

From Ernie Els to Cristie Kerr to Dana Quigley, tour pros make a lot more than prize money

If there is such a thing as a no-risk venture in sports marketing, it is the tour professional. First, no athlete provides so many opportunities to show off a company's logo as a pro golfer, simply because there are no uniforms. The fact that NASCAR drivers try to squeeze myriad logos onto their uniforms is probably a plus for golf. Having fewer logos brings more attention to the product. And then there is the point that golfers are standing relatively still when the TV camera is on them, giving the viewer a better look.

Second, the nature of the sport creates many business possibilities not open to team athletes. The pro-am experiences on all three major circuits -- the PGA Tour, LPGA Tour, and Champions Tour -- always rank at the top of any satisfaction survey of companies that invest in sports. Although Derek Jeter might be of value at a cocktail party, no client will ever get a chance to play baseball with him. Anyone who plays in a pro-am or even shares a few holes with a professional at a corporate outing has some great coffee-break conversation material for weeks.

And perhaps the best marketing hook for professional golfers is the stability of the game. "To be a successful sport you have to have a good television deal and labor peace," says David Carter, founder of the Los Angeles-based strategic-marketing consulting firm Sports Business Group. "And pro golf has both. There are no surprises. No strikes. No lockouts. What you pay for is delivered." Professional golfers also offer a near-spotless record in terms of police rap sheets. The fact that a player under contract is not a risk to bring bad publicity to endorsement partners is a strong selling point.

The PGA Tour, which is trying to juggle its schedule beginning in the 2007 season to better compete in the fall segment against football, has at least 10 more years of Tiger Woods, and fan interest will build as he closes in on Jack Nicklaus' major-championship record. The LPGA has its best player ever, Annika Sorenstam, and the talent pipeline is packed with such highly marketable youngsters as Paula Creamer, Morgan Pressel, and Michelle Wie. And the Champions Tour has a constant stream of talent moving over from the regular tour. Here are three top players and their endorsement deals.

By Ron Sirak

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