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June 2017 promises to be golf heaven in Wisconsin

If you’re a golf nut, you could be excused if you think Mimi Griffin has the best job in the universe.

Griffin’s title might not automatically reflect that, but as president and CEO of MSG Promotions, a major-event management, marketing, and client entertaining company, she handles corporate hospitality for the much-anticipated 2017 U.S. Open at Wisconsin’s own Erin Hills.

 

Mimi Griffin talks to a client from IBM in the USGA Partner Village at Oakmont during the 2016 U.S. Open.

Mimi Griffin talks to a client from IBM in the USGA Partner Village at Oakmont during the 2016 U.S. Open.

As the person who is spearheading one of the championship’s most important financial efforts since 1995, Griffin is responsible for producing hospitality revenues in excess of $210 million. She’s doing so by developing a broad base of national corporate clients, but companies of all sizes will have an opportunity to, as Griffith puts it, “leverage this internationally renowned event.”

Everything from executive tents and suites to reserved tables in a shared area will be available for businesses and executives to enrich current and potential corporate relationships. “Basically it’s about client relationship building,” Griffin says. “It’s not necessarily exposure so much because there isn’t much opportunity for that on site, but it’s more about furthering relationships with current clients, as well as prospective clients.”

 

Champions past and present

Erin Hills compares to other great U.S. Open venues such as Pebble Beach, Shinnecock, and Oakmont, according to Mike Davis, executive director of the U.S. Golf Association.

Her work on this premier event will pave the way for a once-in-a-lifetime fortnight of golf that begins with the U.S. Open June 12–18 and continues with the second annual American Family Insurance Championship in Madison the very next week, June 19–25. This time, local favorites Steve Stricker and Jerry Kelly will be able to participate in the Champions Tour event at University Ridge.

 

In case you’re wondering whether the two events will compete with one another for sponsorship, advertising, and other dollars, Griffin notes the U.S. Open is America’s national championship and as such it draws national and international attention and dollars, whereas the American Family Championship will draw more on local dollars.

Griffin, who has worked on both regular tour events and Champions Tour events, notes the U.S. Open is in a category of its own, comparable to the Super Bowl in terms of prestige within the golfing community. “Because I’ve worked on a PGA Tour event, I know the money from those events is raised more through opportunities for exposure or advertising or allowing your brand to be associated with that event, and that’s not the case with the U.S. Open,” she explains. “This is not about marketing buy at all. It’s about client relationship building.”

The only identification U.S. Open corporate sponsors have is a two-foot by two-foot sign that is located right outside a tent placed within a communal village that only those with the right tickets can enter. “The only people who they see are those who are within that specific village,” Griffin notes. “It’s a very different way for companies to be involved.”

American Family Insurance supports both events and was one of the first companies to commit to the U.S. Open. “They are doing everything and good for them to be able to do so, especially with this being the first U.S. Open ever contested in the state of Wisconsin,” she states. “This is a big deal for the state in general, and companies like American Family have really understood the value of that and have supported it commensurate with the prestige of the event itself.”

The Wisconsin golf scene reminds Griffin of Minnesota’s because the golf season might be short in both states, but there is an avid group that participates in golf and is interested in golf. What’s more, she says the quality of the golf facilities in Wisconsin is “phenomenal,” noting that Whistling Straights has already held two PGA Championships and will host the Ryder Cup in 2020.

Asked if Madison businesses are stepping up to support the U.S. Open, especially given that Madison is hosting a Champions Tour event the very next weekend, Griffin says so far, so good, but she can only say so much. While she says American Family is okay with a mention, “we are very protective of the client list.”

The vast majority of corporate clients will be staying in hotels in and around Milwaukee and in private lake homes near the course, but Griffin expects the Madison hospitality industry to house golf aficionados, as well.

Griffin says the 2017 U.S. Open will be even more affordable than the recent Ryder Cup event at Hazeltine National Golf Course in Chaska, Minn. “There is an event where you will see all the same golfers that you see at the U.S. Open, yet our (U.S. Open) options are much more affordable overall,” she states. “For example, their 100-ticket tent is $425,000 and our 100-ticket tent is $235,000. We are at a $336 cost per person before food and beverage and if you add food and beverage in that, you’re still under $500 per person for the cost.

“My company has sold Super Bowl hospitality in the past and when we did that the cost per person, just for the single game ticket with hospitality, was $9,000 per person. Now you’re talking about the opportunity to see the best in the world compete for the most coveted title, a national open, and the cost per person is a fraction of what it was for the Ryder Cup and one-tenth of what it is for something like the Super Bowl.”

Also in terms of sponsorships, the American Family Insurance Championship’s 50-person chalet, including food and beverage, is $50,000, or $1,000 per person

October 2016 | By Joe Vanden Plas, Contributor for In Business Magazine