Business Development

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Can Economic Development Corporations Score Big Wins with Pro Golf?

23 Feb, 2020

By: Mary Helen Sprecher

We’re used to seeing pro sports events with corporate names. The Symetra Tour is one. The memorably titled Waste Management Phoenix Open is another. And to a certain extent, we’re also used to seeing some forward-thinking sports commissions and CVBs get involved (hence, the Lake Charles Championship and the Visit Knoxville Open).

But when an economic development corporation gets involved, it’s a whole new ballgame. The Live + Work in Maine Open will be contested at Falmouth Country Club in (duh) Falmouth, Maine, the week of June 8-14, 2020, with 156 players competing for a $600,000 purse. The event has a five-year agreement in place, so that it’ll be presented through 2024.

So …wait. Inquiring minds want to know. How did a state’s economic development office – which we’re generally used to seeing simply host booths at conferences and advertise in national trade magazines – get involved with the PGA? While it’s not uncommon for sports commissions and CVBs to be involved on some level with destination tournaments, this is a first.

The PGA notes that it’s an innovative pairing. “EDCs are very involved across a number of events on all of our Tours, but to my knowledge, this is the only one where it’s a title sponsor,” said a representative of PGA. “For the Korn Ferry Tour, we have two events where CVBs are titles (the Lake Charles and Knoxville), but that’s a bit different.”

And in case you wanted to know, Live + Work in Maine is a consortium of Maine employers and a statewide initiative to market and promote Maine as a career destination. It differs from organizations trying to bring tourism (and even sports tourism) into the picture in that it seeks to bring people into the state permanently.

With an interest in using the international stage to promote Maine as a world-class destination for career opportunities, Live + Work in Maine will coordinate activities around the event for attendees to learn more about opportunities to live and work in Maine full-time, and engage with employers such as Maine Health and others across the state.

"Live + Work in Maine is very excited to work with Maine employers and the PGA to use the KornFerry Tour to showcase our state as a career destination,” said Nate Wildes, executive director of Live + Work in Maine. “It's an incredibly unique opportunity to showcase the diverse opportunities live and work in Vacationland full-time, and to convert those people used to visiting Maine for a few days into full-time residents. Whether you golf on the coast, golf in the mountains, or golf by a lake...there's golf (and subsequent communities!) for you in Maine."

The unique aspect of the partnership he mentions isn’t lost on anyone here. While plenty of other EDCs offer sponsorship opportunities (an example from Santa Clarita can be found here), Live + Work in Maine appears to have broken new ground in its partnership with a major sports event.

It is also, said Shamrock CEO Brian Corcoran, an opportunity to build on the momentum already generated by the local EDC.

“This partnership reinforces Shamrock’s commitment to strengthen the regional economy by marketing Maine as a desired destination offering priceless experiences that fuel community purposes and help with workforce attraction.  We are encouraged by the healthy pipeline of Maine-based companies who plan to utilize this powerful platform to grow their businesses.  We are confident the Live + Work in Maine Open will bring the contagious excitement of Korn Ferry Tour golf and related festivities to fans of all ages.”

And make no mistake – sponsorship of sports is huge. In 2019, MarketWatch noted that the global sports sponsorship market was valued at $55 billion in 2018 and was expected to reach more than $80 billion by 2025. (After all, not much in the U.S. gets more attention than sports – and it’s not, generally speaking, politically divisive).

"The Live and Work in Maine Open is committed to driving significant charitable, community and economic impact to our region,” said Brian Corcoran, Chief Engagement Officer and Founder of Shamrock Sports & Entertainment, which is managing the tournament.

The extent to which an organization manages its partnership with a sports event can vary. Some entities simply partner with tournaments or teams to help drive local interest and hotel rooms. Others have a more considerable investment and as a result, bigger expectations.

CVBs and sports commissions partnering with events is a bit more typical, since there is the common thread of tourism or of publicizing the competition venue The Lake Charles ChampionshipOpens in New Window debuts in Lake Charles, Louisiana, the week of March 23-29, 2020, with 156 players competing for a $600,000 purse. And the Visit Knoxville Open, a longtime PGA event, moves to historic Holston Hills Country Club beginning in 2020.

Whether the juxtaposition of EDCs and sports becomes a lasting trend remains to be seen. But with a five-year agreement in place, the Live + Work in Maine Open is breaking new ground.

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