RBC Heritage

How Boeing became Heritage's 'junior sponsor'

When the time came Thursday to thank the sponsors who saved the Heritage golf tournament, Gov. Nikki Haley reached under the podium and pulled out not one but two tartan jackets.

One of the red plaid blazers, traditionally worn by winners and trustees of Hilton Head Island's PGA Tour event, was for the Royal Bank of Canada.

The other was for the Boeing Co.

Much of the Thursday's announcement at Harbour Town Golf Links was focused on RBC, which agreed to succeed Verizon as the tournament's title sponsor through 2016.

On Friday, people involved in the deal provided more details about how Boeing became the "local presenting sponsor," what that commitment entails and what the company will receive in return.


Tour officials say local presenting sponsorships are common at their other events.

The 43-year-old Heritage, however, has never had one, according to Simon Fraser, chairman of the Heritage Classic Foundation, the nonprofit group that runs the tournament.

Tour vice president Ty Votaw said it's difficult to say exactly how many events have such an arrangement. The tour seeks to marry each event with its own particular combination of title, supporting, presenting and other sponsors, he said.

In the Heritage's case, tournament organizers had sought a total commitment of $7 million to $8 million per year.

Boeing's five-year deal with the tournament calls for the airplane manufacturer, which recently opened a plant in North Charleston, to pay more than $1 million per year, company spokeswoman Candy Eslinger said Friday.

A million dollars of the company's contribution "will go directly to South Carolina charities," she said.

The Heritage has contributed about $20 million to charity since 1987, and charitable giving is a consistent focus of tour events.

In exchange for its sponsorship, Boeing will receive name recognition and other benefits from the tournament, Fraser said.

"The tournament will be referred (to) locally as the 'the RBC Heritage presented by Boeing,' " Fraser said in an email. "Nationally and on the TV coverage, the tournament will be referred to as the RBC Heritage."

Boeing also will receive benefits that are "similar to those (that) other hospitality sponsors receive, but enhanced," Fraser said.

Some details have yet to be worked out, he said.

"Hopefully, Boeing will bring many guests to the tournament and entertain them in style" while spending a lot of money in the area, Fraser said.


During Thursday's announcement, Boeing vice president of human resources Rick Stephens called the company's sponsorship "a great way for us to be able to say, 'Thank you very much.' "

The company received hundreds of millions of dollars in incentives for its North Charleston plant.

Stephens also thanked Haley, the first-term Republican who made it a top priority of her administration to find the new sponsors, and U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, who helped recruit Boeing to the state.

Graham also is helping the company fight a lawsuit filed by the National Labor Relations Board about the company's decision to build its North Charleston plant.

Graham said he leveraged a longtime friendship with J. Michael Luttig, a former federal judge who is now Boeing's general counsel, to help persuade the company to support the Heritage.

"It's from that relationship this discussion kind of took off," Graham said.

Graham said he broached the idea with Luttig shortly before this year's tournament during a dinner honoring major South Carolina employers such as Boeing, Michelin and BMW.

The dinner was hosted by a local couple and the S.C. Department of Commerce at Harbour Town Golf Links, Graham said.

He recalls pitching Heritage sponsorship as a way for Boeing to "solidify its South Carolina roots" beyond bringing a plant to the state.

At that point, the tournament's supporters did not have an agreement with a title sponsor, he said.

As talks continued, Graham said, he asked Luttig if Boeing would be willing to consider becoming a "junior sponsor."

At the June 10 ceremony during which Boeing officials dedicated the plant, Graham learned Boeing was committing to the Heritage, he said.

Graham said he believes his relationship with Luttig and his support of Boeing in its court battle helped spur the company's decision.

"I think that translated to Boeing being interested in helping South Carolina," he said.