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Pace Sterling is a financial services giant headed by CEO Calvin Buckley and with Sandy Michaels as its CMO. As part of its brand building activities and strategies for increasing engagement with customers in its target segment, the company sponsors several events and organisations, chief among which is the Professional Golf Organization’s Champions Tournament. The Tournament is the jewel of the golf tour, and is hosted at the all-male Dover Hill club, a Mecca for all golf fans. The case opens with Sandy in a buoyant mood, having just secured exclusive sponsorship rights for the tournament for the 12th year in a row. The tournament’s attributes of “prowess, privilege and sheer class” resonated with the personality of Pace Sterling, and the viewer demographics were perfect in the sense that it consisted of individuals with the authority to decide or at least influence the decision to partner with Pace Sterling. The dilemma in this situation arises from Dover Hill’s continued refusal to open its doors to female members. This year, the Women’s Rights Organization (WRO), after years of unsuccessfully petitioning some of the club’s well-heeled and well-meaning members, had switched tactics and started applying pressure on the PGO for associating with such a sexist venue. Additionally, they mounted a direct attack on Pace Sterling. In a strongly worded letter to Cal Buckley, WRO’s chairwoman Gillian Golding took him to task for sponsoring a discriminatory organization. Copies of the letter had been sent to the national media. Sandy and Jack Spearwood, head of Pace Sterling’s new business development, both were of the opinion that the company should continue its association with the Champions Tournament. Cal, Pace Sterling’s Board and Cheryl Evans, head of HR were not so sure. So eventually, what should the company do? My personal opinion is based on two factors – the nature of the financial services industry (its players, customers, etc.) and the gravity of the Dover Hill situation, which I’m not sure Sandy and Jack grasp fully. The financial services industry and its major players are very conservative and riskaverse when it comes to their image. It’s a major decision influencer even when it comes to high-value and image-conscious customers of these institutions. Dover Hill with its outdated and blatantly sexist stance is poised for serious trouble. By ignoring years of effort put in by the WRO, it has now invited aggressive tactics by the organization. Rationalizing the sponsorship by saying that they’ve already been sponsoring for 11 years and there’s no strong reason to stop now is just plain wrong. One is not accounting for the renewed and glaring exposure that Dover Hill’s policy will be subjected to considering the WRO’s new tactics. The public appeal to Tommy Ward to shun the Champions Tournament is the first of
And they are likely to stay away. Lost opportunities to ply potential customers with exclusive passes and build brand equity will mean nothing if potential customers stay away in the first place. 0382/48 . because not too many of them will be comfortable with dover Hill’s stance. it can look for other premier sporting events to sponsor. and express hope and willingness to resume the sponsorship should the club change its mind. Tushar Ranjan. but the changing times often render those prejudices untenable and unbearable to the ones being discriminated against.what is likely to be several heavy attacks. by allowing the situation to meander. Pace Sterling should have nipped this situation in the bud by using its influence to make the club see light and change its admission policy. Pace Sterling should thank Dover Hill for its years of association. they might find themselves on the side of Dover Hill. with Dover Hill itself being on the wrong side of this particular debate. Hence I recommend terminating the sponsorship. with a clear announcement declaring a disconnect between Pace Sterling and Dover Hill’s views on admission of female members as the reason for the same. In the meantime. However. This is a classic case of how certain prejudices don’t necessarily change over time.