Cialis teeing off marketing efforts with PGA Tour: Spending could rival Viagra's NASCAR, MLB deals

May 9, 2005

Cialis, Eli Lilly and Co.'s erectile dysfunction drug, is teeing off its second season as a sponsor of the PGA Tour with several major marketing initiatives. The increased spending levels, sports marketers said, rival Viagra's commitments in NASCAR and Major League Baseball.

Lilly officials said a 24-plus-percent market share for the drug just 18 months after its debut proves the marketing strategy is working. Lilly makes the drug in partnership with Bothell, Wash.-based Icos Corp.

In addition to serving as the title sponsor of the Cialis Western Open, the PGA Tour tournament in Chicago, for the second year, Lilly-Icos has this year launched a massive Cialis television advertising campaign centered on its PGA involvement, secured sole sponsorship rights on scoreboards at 60 PGA Tour events, and begun point-of-purchase campaigns at more than 500 pharmacies and select doctors' offices in the markets where it sponsors golf tournaments.

The most innovative deal, sports marketers said, is an agreement with The Golf Channel and Denver-based GolfTec to set up tents at Tour events. Spectators can come to The Golf Swing Experience presented by Cialis and have their swing analyzed by a teaching golf professional.

Within a week, participants receive an e-mail with a Web link, www.golftec.com/cialis, connecting them to a 20-minute online lesson prepared by a GolfTec teacher using the swing analysis generated in the Cialis tent.

At the Doral Open earlier this year, Lilly officials said, 3,500 people visited the Cialis tent, with 1,000 taking part in the swing analysis in four days. Within three weeks of the tournament, more than 800 had logged onto the Cialis co-branded Web site to check out their swing analysis.

The PGA, which sports marketers once thought was an avenue of last resort for Cialis, is turning out to be a strong marketing partner. Cialis' main rival, Viagra, has NASCAR and Major League Baseball locked up, and Levitra, the third major player in the erectile dysfunction category, has a deal with the National Football League.

"This deal between Cialis and the PGA Tour makes sense on all kinds of levels," said David Carter, principal of Los Angelesbased Sports Business Group. "And Cialis is showing they're going to be heavily activating this sponsorship, which is critical."

NASCAR and golf are turning out to be the most effective marketing platforms for this drug category, said Mel Poole, president of SponsorLogic, a Charlotte, N.C.-based sports marketing consultancy.

"These are both strong platforms, but golf demographics actually trend a little older and a little more affluent than NASCAR fans," Poole said.

As a primary sponsor of Mark Martin's team, Viagra likely spends $20 million annually on NASCAR sponsorship, and Poole estimates Cialis is approaching that figure with the PGA. The PGA and motorsports offer unparalleled opportunities for corporate hospitality, Poole said, and Cialis and Viagra officials have launched a major effort to bring doctors and other medical people to events to help them promote and sell their products.

"During our first year, we were trying to figure out how the brands of Cialis and the PGA meshed," said Matt Beebe, U.S. brand team leader for Cialis. "We now see our message connects very well with the players and viewers of golf and the message of Cialis and the PGA has a lot of similarities."

Cialis' deal with the PGA extends through the 2007 season, and Beebe said more initiatives are in the works.
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