Michael Robichaud: The open patron
On 12th July the Royal and Ancient (R&A) announced financial services company Mastercard as a patron and the official card of the Open Championship as part of a four-year deal effective in 2012.
With the first golfers teeing off at the 2011 Open Championship at Royal St George's in Kent at 6:30am on Thursday, ahead of this year’s edition of the tournament SportsPro caught up with Michael Robichaud, head of sponsorship at the Major's latest patron.
Why has Mastercard become a patron of the Open?
We sponsor golf throughout the world, in different forms and, when you look at the structure of golf, the Open is one of the four Majors and it’s arguably the largest and most viewed golf event in the world. As we are expanding our marketing into doing more cardholder activity, having the opportunity to talk to such a large and avid fan base is a great opportunity for us.
Why exactly are you doing it now? Have you always looked to become a sponsor of the Open or was the time particularly pertinent?
I think it’s just a great addition to our portfolio. We do have a new management and Mastercard’s marketing has been changing a lot since our new chief executive and chief marketing officer came in. I think it’s just more relevant to the change in marketing strategy that we have.
What do you hope to achieve through your four-year sponsorship?
"Having the opportunity to talk to such a large and avid fan base is a great opportunity for us"
Our overall goal right now is to develop more brand preference. So whilst brand awareness is always a key fundamental activity in most sponsorships, it’s really the idea of creating unique special opportunities for cardholders. Obviously those who attend the event but also those that maybe don’t. We can use awareness of the event, whether we work with merchant partners as a point-of-sale or for other events we have, by providing different opportunities for people that wouldn’t normally attend the event. It’s really using the focus to demonstrate to cardholders the different things we can do and the creation of different types of experiences.
Will spectators only be able to use Mastercard cards at the Open next year?
No definitely not. In general that’s not part of what we do. It’s more trying to create an incentive so folks want to use Mastercard. How can we create something special so that when people use Mastercard then they get something for it? It could be something very simple. It’s about providing logical reasons so that people want to use Mastercard.
I’ve got no real comment on what our competitors like to do. More traditional marketing says that if people have choices then you need to earn the business not contract them into a situation.
Will you be attending this year’s Open Championship?
Yeah, I’m here right now. I’m out tomorrow doing some stuff and ill be back here by Thursday. I am fortunate that I have been at this event for several years as a guest and to support the golfers that we work with. I have never been at this venue before so seeing how it is set up and meeting with various folks that we want to work with is good. It’s always good to be at these sorts of places.
Have you got any ideas to work in conjunction with other patrons, HSBC for example?
"You always root for the guys that you are associated with but I think that in having a great event, and this is always such a special week, there is always something dramatic and exciting going on"
Oh 100 per cent HSBC. Assuming that we can come up with something that they are interested in doing, they are a big issuer of our card s and part of one of our goals will be to create something unique and special for their premier cardholders that carry the Mastercard premier card and so we have a responsibility to carve out important, unique elements for them.
The good thing about our product is that you don’t buy Matsercard like you do with most other things I can think of. So because it’s the idea of using our product to purchase other things, we can help fellow patrons to drive the awareness of what they are doing and particularly the special things that they are doing with other golfers. The good news is that in this day and age, sponsors are very aware of the importance and the centrepiece that consumers are. You, me, the people that run this event, our lives are based around golf fans and their interests and their passions. So what is it that we can be doing for them to make it a better experience? These are people that are spending their time and money and we want to earn their respect and their business.
Has this deal been a long time coming?
Yes, it’s something that we have talked about. I think as you know, we have been a partner of the senior open championship and we are a partner of the European tour and the European Ryder Cup Team so looking at golf is an ongoing thing. The actual contract was completed in the last few months
Can we expect to see more Europe-wide golf deals in the future?
I know that we are going to be here for the next four years which is great so we can build around it but this year alone if you think about it, we have, besides the European tour, we’ve done BMW Championship, the French Open and we will be doing the Portugal master this year. So three big tournaments, two European players plus the Ryder Cup so id like to say that we are certainly one of the more active in European golf.
Finally, what are you hoping to see at this year’s tournament?
A great event. I would love to see Tom Watson or certainly any of our guys play well. Mr Poulter has been close before. You always root for the guys that you are associated with but I think that in having a great event, and this is always such a special week, there is always something dramatic and exciting going on. I think it'll be a good competition and that’s what we all want.
Photo shows Mastercard endorsed golfer Tom Watson (C) with the R&A director Mike Tate (L) and Mastercard's head of sponsorship Michael Robichaud during the Mastercard's champagne brunch at Royal St George's golf course in Sandwich.
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Mastercard becomes a patron of the Open Championship - 12 July 2011
The Open Championship announces Japanese patron - 23 November 2012
Ralph Lauren announced as Open patron - 21 September 2011
Rolex to sponsor Senior Open Championship - 21 July 2011
The Celtic Manor Wales Open secures new sponsor - 27 May 2010
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