John Deere is nearing the end of its current title sponsorship of the PGA Tour’s John Deere Classic and it’s unclear if it will be renewed.
Andrew Lehman, the new John Deere Classic tournament director, said no decision has been announced, at a presentation Monday, May 22 meeting of the Rock Island Kiwanis Club. The next golf tournament is July 5-9, 2023 at TPC Deere Run in Silvis, and Deere’s title sponsorship ends this year.
Deere – which became title sponsor in 1997 — enters into negotiations with the PGA Tour as title sponsor. The JDC is a registered nonprofit organization, technically the “Quad City Golf Classic Charitable Foundation,” Lehman said.
“We don’t have news to share on a title extension right now, but those discussions are taking place,” he told the Kiwanis. “We feel confident in our office that this event will continue beyond 2023.”
Earlier this month, the Moline-based equipment maker reported fiscal second-quarter net income of $2.86 billion, on revenues of $17.39 billion for the period.
Deere spokeswoman Jen Hartmann said Wednesday that the company does not have anything to share about the title sponsorship, but expects to make an announcement in early June.
The last seven-year extension of the title sponsorship was announced in 2015, a full year before that last extension was to expire in 2016.
“This sponsorship has significant impact in many important areas for John Deere,” James Field, president of Deere’s Worldwide Agriculture and Turf Division said then. “The agreement helps our company sell equipment, build relationships with customers and dealers, and promote the John Deere brand worldwide.”
In addition, Field noted, hundreds of community organizations have benefited from millions of dollars in contributions made through the John Deere Classic and the tournament has had substantial economic impact on the QC community where it is held.
The agreement was announced during a news conference at Deere & Company World Headquarters two days before tournament play began for the 2015 John Deere Classic.
A native of Carroll, Iowa, Lehman joined the JDC in 2006 as an intern. The Iowa State graduate became assistant tournament director in 2010 and took over tournament operations in 2016.
Lehman was the executive director of the First Tee youth program for a few years. He succeeded Clair Peterson as JDC tournament director, who retired last Dec. 31 after 20 years.
“The annual charity announcement is always one of the biggest – some would say most important – days of the year, because it’s really the reason we exist: to help raise money for our local charities,” Peterson said of the JDC Birdies for Charity last fall. “It’s a day for the community, our volunteers and leaders, our staff, and most importantly John Deere to be proud of what they’ve all helped to accomplish.”
Big community impacts
The JDC won “the Super Bowl” of PGA Tour awards as 2016 Tournament of the Year, Lehman said this week. That year, the Classic was moved to August.
The Birdies for Charity program raised a record $13.9 million in 2022 for 481 charities last year (which includes Rock Island Kiwanis).
“That’s our main mission,” Lehman said of serving the QC community. “That’s the story that we’re most proud of, and to represent the PGA Tour brand in a favorable light around the world, which is so important to John Deere as a global company.”
The tournament (which began in 1971) has raised a total of $159 million from Birdies. Since Deere took over as title sponsor in 1997, the company has helped raise 98 percent of that total funding, Lehman said.
“Even though we’re celebrating our 30th year of Birdies for Charity, which goes back to 1993, the bulk of that money has really been pouring in since 1997,” he said.
Deere’s backing allows 100 percent of Birdies pledges to go directly to the charities, and the JDC promises a 5% bonus each year on top of pledges (7% extra was given in 2022). That support this year was one source enabling Rock Island Kiwanis to give out five grants and three scholarships totaling $7,000 for local youth, and youth-serving organizations.
The total amount donated to the charities is the result of a three-pronged fundraising effort:
- The Birdies for Charity (where you pick an amount to donate per birdie in the tournament) enables individuals, companies, and foundations to pledge a lump sum donation to a charity or charities of their choice.
- Because John Deere underwrites the administrative costs of the Birdies program, 100 percent of each Birdies pledge collected goes directly to the designated charities to be used at their organization. They pay no administrative costs to Birdies for Charity.
- The Bonus Fund consists of tournament revenues, direct donations, a John Deere matching grant, as well as proceeds from special events.
The community continued to support the JDC and Birdies in 2020, even without a tournament (due to COVID), giving $12 million, Lehman said. “Nobody knew what the heck what was going on. People had financial challenges; people were being laid off and the community really rallied around the event.”
In the last couple years, the JDC has worked to attract a diverse population to the game of golf, Lehman said, noting 2022 was the first year the JDC had an African-American player as a sponsor’s exemption.
The economic impact the tournament has on the area is $54.3 million (including hotels, restaurants and other visitor spending), Lehman said. “We feel our field is going to be better” this year, he said. Last year’s JDC didn’t feature any golfers in the Top 50, and this year they expect to have at least five or six.
That includes 26-year-old Cameron Young, who’s committed to play, Lehman said.
“We’ve got two huge events that are going to happen on Saturday and Sunday,” the director said, noting he couldn’t provide details yet.
$1.28 million for the win
J.T. Poston posted a 3-shot victory at the 2022 John Deere Classic, shooting 21-under par for his second PGA Tour win, taking home $1.28 million. He is expected to defend his title this July.
Deere brings in 800 guests during the JDC week in three waves, Lehman said.
It helps increase the company brand awareness and sales worldwide, and is presented as a John Deere product, he said.
Deere is now the second-longest title sponsor on the PGA Tour, behind Sony.
“One of the ways we drive brand awareness, if you look at the CBS broadcast,” Lehman said of great media exposure. In turn, that is broadcast to 220 countries around the world, he noted.
The JDC is also on the ESPN+ platform, which reaches 800 million additional households.
Last year alone, from the business relationships Deere had with its 800 guests, it made $50 million from equipment sales, Lehman said.
“We’re just so blessed – they really are the best title sponsor on the PGA Tour,” he said. “There’s no mistaking when you show up on site, you know you’re at the John Deere Classic. You’re not wondering where you’re at.”
The PGA Tour can’t stand seeing Deere equipment in golfer photos during the JDC play, Lehman said, joking the tournament gets marked up for that. “It’s important to the title sponsor.”
On Wednesday, John Deere was named an honoree of The Civic 50 for the second year in a row, recognizing the 50 most community-minded companies in the nation each year according to an annual survey.
The award is administered by Points of Light, the world’s largest nonprofit dedicated to accelerating people-powered change. Now in its eleventh year, The Civic 50 is a national standard for corporate citizenship and showcases how leading companies are moving social impact, civic engagement, and community to the core of their business.
The Civic 50 honorees are companies with annual U.S. revenues of at least $1 billion and are selected based on four dimensions of their corporate citizenship and social impact programs: investment of resources and volunteerism, integration across business functions, institutionalization through policies and systems and impact measurement.
For more on the JDC, click HERE.