Companies Pay for Pampering at Golf Tourney

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Pricey ticket packages promising VIP treatment at the Wachovia Championship, a PGA Tour event set for May 5-11 in Charlotte, NC, have drawn a strong response among area businesses.


Mailers went in late November to 600 members of the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce's board of advisers and 2,000 members of the Winston-Salem (NC) Chamber of Commerce.


One-page letters highlighted "a limited number of reservations currently available for both The Executive Club and The Champions Club." The letters said both clubs were "special entertainment packages [that] have been developed for companies that would like to both attend the tournament and have the ability to host customers, employees or friends."


Both options included access to a climate-controlled tent. The Executive Club, priced at $10,000, included complimentary food and beverages, a dedicated table for guests, telephone and TV, 10 Executive Club tickets per day for the event's final four days, 10 Champions Club tickets per day for two days and two parking passes.


The Champions Club included food and beverages available for purchase and four Champions Club tickets per day for six days. The price was $1,000.


Recipients could mail or fax order forms, which mentioned that the expense might be tax deductible.


"The letter [sent to Winston-Salem was] a little different, but the two response options were the same," said Pete Marco, senior vice president at Luquire George Andrews Inc., the agency that created and executed the campaign for the event, which is sponsored by financial services firm Wachovia Corp.


"The Charlotte chamber letter did not go to the full list, while it did in Winston-Salem," he said. "The Charlotte chamber has approximately 3,000 members. The [recipients] were identified as the chamber's strongest supporters and more active members."


Winston-Salem was targeted because it was Wachovia's original headquarters. Wachovia and First Union merged in 2001. The Wachovia name survived but the headquarters shifted to Charlotte, which had been First Union's headquarters.


Seventy-one percent of the 87 Executive Club tables have been sold so far.


"The whole corporate sales effort has been remarkably successful," Marco said. "We're not surprised. Charlotte has always done a wonderful job of supporting events like this. I would expect that this would be sold out by March. It won't be just those two organizations, but ... a majority of the sales have come from those organizations."


About 25 percent of the 400 available Champions Club packages have been sold.


"I would like to think it would be sold out by the beginning of April," he said. "[For this package] we're probably looking at smaller businesses -- maybe small companies with 20 or 30 employees where there is a sales-oriented situation with the opportunity to entertain and do something special for their customers."


The day the mailers went out in November, another 11,000 letters promoting the event mailed to consumers in the nine-county area around Charlotte along with a five-panel foldout ticket brochure.


The list, compiled by Equifax, targeted households with average annual incomes around $100,000 or more that expressed interest in golf. The projected response rate is 2 percent to 5 percent, "and maybe it will be higher, and the average order amount is probably going to be between $300 and $400," Marco said.


One side of the brochure is dominated by a photo of a golf course along with a daily schedule. Weekly ticket books sell for $110, which also allow buyers to receive first opportunity to renew tickets for next year's event.


The other side of the brochure includes a ticket application and four methods of purchase: wachoviachampionship.com, a toll-free number, mail and by fax.


"We've sold upward of 40 percent of our total ticket capacity from all of our marketing efforts," Marco said.


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