RANCHO SANTA FE, Calif. — Prime-time television runs headlong into professional golf tonight on ABC in the Battle at the Bridges, where Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, John Daly and Hank Kuehne take turns in front of the cameras while their sponsors hope the viewers who tune in see how they're playing
Take John Daly, for instance. Not only does he wear his own colorful Lion logo on a sleeveless vest, Daly also is adorned with so many other advertisements that he looks like a walking billboard or something at the starting line at a NASCAR race.
His shirt carries logos from sponsors such as 84 Lumber and Dunlop as well as TrimSpa, a dietary supplement. Showing that he knows his way around both sides of an issue, Daly is also breaking out a new logo on his shirt sleeve tonight -- Dunkin' Donuts.
There is an audience out there for what may amount to a three-hour infomercial with the pros. Last year, according to Nielsen ratings, a total audience of 18.4 million watched the fifth installment of the prime-time golf series.
Although no one can be quite sure how that will translate, say, from dollars to doughnuts, heavyweight sponsors are pleased to have the forum.
"When you're investing in John Daly, you're always going to get exposure," said John Mascatello, Daly's agent at SFX Golf. "Now you're talking prime time; this is one way the sponsors win."
The $1.4-million Battle at the Bridges will be picked up in progress at 5 p.m. PDT, the start of the three-hour prime-time window on the East Coast. Woods and Kuehne play Mickelson and Daly in a one-round, best-ball match, testing their skills while at the same time having the rare opportunity of showcasing their sponsors in network television's most intense viewing period.
The brand names most closely associated with Mickelson are BearingPoint, whose logo is on Mickelson's visor, and Ford, which is featured in a logo on the front of his shirt. Mickelson's bag is Titleist. Kuehne wears a TaylorMade cap and has logos for Adidas and Franklin Templeton on his shirt. He has a TaylorMade bag.
Daly's bag is from his sponsor Dunlop. As part of Daly's new association with Dunkin' Donuts, the company has a deal to become title sponsor of the Duff's Challenge, an off-season event that pits Daly and Scott Hoch against two amateurs using their handicaps in a best-ball match.
Then there is Woods, who is Nike from head to toe, and also the undisputed king of exposure, who represents a $20-million annual investment from Nike.
When Woods approved the introduction of a mock turtleneck shirt for his Nike signature clothing line and started wearing it on tour, sales increased from 3,000 units to 70,000 units in a couple of months. Woods will debut new footwear tonight, SP-7 TW Tour, which sounds more like an airplane than a shoe.
Make no mistake, this is serious business. Nike intends to make the most of its rare prime-time exposure. Because the players wear microphones and there will be opportunities for informal interviews, Woods has been coached to include casual mentions of the Nike brand in conversations.
"This is a great opportunity to reinforce our association with Tiger, because even though it's once a year, it's in prime time," said Chris Mike, director of marketing for Nike Golf. "There are only four players, only a few brands that are going to be highlighted. It's a lot less cluttered than a regular weekend PGA Tour event."
Julie Zdziarski is executive vice president of Sponsorship Research International, a marketing research company that measures media impressions. It's her job to attach a dollar value to the minutes and seconds that the logo brands worn by the players are seen on television.
"The big thing is the repetition," Zdziarski said. "The viewer is going to be seeing the same four players over and over and over, so that's a great deal of concentrated exposure."
Zdziarski's company evaluates the efficiency of the logo itself by judging its positioning and then considers how much of the logo can be plainly seen. Advertising rates are figured in, but because 30 seconds of a visual logo is not comparable to a 30-second advertising spot, the rate is discounted to reflect its value to the sponsor.
The amount of exposure for each of the sponsors of the four players will be significantly higher than a regular tournament because the players are guaranteed time on camera, Zdziarski said.
As for the golf show itself, it has been around since 1999 for the Showdown at Sherwood, when Woods defeated David Duval. That first event had a Nielsen rating of 6.9 and a share of 12. Every ratings point equals roughly 1.1 million households and a share represents the percentage of sets in use that are tuned into a specific program.