124th U.S. Open

Pinehurst No. 2



Money

The LPGA Tour could see big dividends from this savvy business partnership

August 22, 2023
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An alliance with Fenway Sports Management puts the LPGA Tour under the same promotional umbrella as Lebron James and the Boston Red Sox.

Christian Petersen

At first blush, the LPGA Tour’s newly announced marketing partnership with Fenway Sports Management—the John Henry-owned entity that controls a portfolio of iconic sports teams—places women’s golf under the same promotional umbrella as the Boston Red Sox baseball team, the Pittsburgh Penguins hockey team and the soccer team Liverpool from the Premier League.

The reality is much more nuanced—and potentially far more exciting. The LPGA Tour’s deal plugs the golf league into Fenway’s powerful sports marketing and sales machine, which means we’re probably about to see a lot more events like the Capital One Frozen Fenway extravaganza—an outdoor hockey tournament conducted in the winter on the famous baseball field—and robust cross-sport marketing like FSM has procured for clients like Wasabi—a tech brand interested in expanding its profile beyond New England.

FSM engineered sponsorship deals for Wasabi to be the title sponsor of college football’s Fenway Bowl along with marquee placement at Red Sox and Liverpool games. Ted Schlueter’s Boston-based branding company, The Grist, has worked with both FSM and Wasabi and says the LPGA Tour is significantly upgrading its marketing firepower. “FSM has an incredibly skilled team of dealmakers, networkers and marketers,” Schlueter says. “The LPGA Tour is clearly going to the experts to expand their own network and gain access to bigger sponsors. I love it because it indicates they’re willing to think much bigger than the traditional market and move toward the idea of global entertainment that we’re seeing the most visionary organizations embracing.”

What makes the LPGA Tour’s deal a potential force multiplier is FSM’s expressed interest in the two-way nature of the partnership: The LPGA Tour will lean on FSM’s sales and creative teams to push the LPGA brand into new markets, and FSM will be able to offer current partners and potential clients exposure in a (hopefully) rapidly expanding LPGA Tour ecosystem. What does that intertwine look like at the apex? FSM operates as NBA legend LeBron James’ marketing arm. James owns a share of FSM and uses his clout to promote the whole portfolio of FSM properties and invests in outside entities like tennis star Naomi Osaka’s production company in tandem with FSM.

It means there’s pretty much always an outlet, location, A-list sports hero and a branding button to push for any FSM-affiliated entity around the world. Given the complexities of the mating ritual between the PGA Tour and LIV, it’s fair to say there might be some envy about the LPGA Tour’s newly stabilized plan.

“This partnership is a game-changer for the LPGA, women’s golf and women’s sports,” said LPGA Tour Commissioner Mollie Marcoux Samaan. “[It] will provide the LPGA with access to new and unprecedented resources and networks, enabling us to accelerate our trajectory of growth . . . and enhancing our platform to inspire, elevate and advance women and girls on and off the golf course.”