SILVIS – Pro golfer J.T. Poston took home the 2022 John Deere Classic Champion title, trophy and purse – as well as a John Deere Gator as a prize, but it is actually the John Deere brand that comes away as a winner from every JDC tournament.
From the heightened exposure in the Quad Cities media to the national television audiences of PGA Tour fans and the countless impressions delivered to JDC spectators on the grounds of TPC at Deere Run, the John Deere brand was flying high and proud everywhere at the JDC and in the Quad Cities.
“This week is just a fun week,” Mara Downing, Deere & Co.’s vice president of Global Brand and Communications, said last week during the festivities leading up to the JDC. “If you think about it, it’s our brand on full display.”
Ms. Downing, whose day job is to drive John Deere’s story and brand, said Deere & Co.’s decision to take on the title sponsorship of the region’s PGA tournament came down to the desire to raise brand awareness.
“This land used to belong to the Deere family,” she said looking over the picturesque river valley that now is home to TPC at Deere Run. “So when we signed the contract 25 years ago to host the first John Deere Classic there were three things we had in mind.”
First, she said it was important to the Deere family that the land be used for the greater good or the community. “We thought what better way than to have a golf course here and host a PGA Tour event,” she said, adding “It’s the only professional sporting event really in our community at this level.”
Secondly, the now long standing partnership between Deere and the PGA Tour took root back when the equipment maker was a newcomer in the golf and turf equipment business. “So this was really a way to help propel us and to establish a great partnership in the golf industry, in the golf world – to help move that business forward,” said Ms. Downing, a third-generation Deere employee. “It’s just been a terrific partnership from that perspective.”
In countries where Deere does a great deal of business in the golf and turf industry, including Scotland and Ireland, Ms. Downing has witnessed how “It’s just a real source of pride for these other clubs and clients to partner with us because we’re a partner of the PGA Tour. That’s really been special.”
The third determining factor behind Deere’s leap into the JDC sponsorship was promoting the John Deere brand. “We wanted it to be good for the brand and good for the brand in terms of brand awareness,” she said after playing in last week’s JDC Pro-Am. “And certainly we’ve done that in reaching millions of households through the television broadcasts.”
In addition, John Deere hosted more than 500 VIPs during three waves of visits during tournament week. “But it’s also good for the brand in terms of the charitable impact and all it does for our hometown community,” she said of the millions of dollars donated through the JDC Birdies for Charity.
For Ms. Downing, the JDC not only is a Deere family event but a family affair that also includes her father, Ron Sovey, a second generation Deere retiree and JDC volunteer, and her sister, Dr. Sue Rector, who will be the 2023 JDC volunteer chair. Her husband Mike Downing is a golf professional with the Iowa PGA.
From the leaderboard to signage featuring the John Deere brand everywhere on the course, and even the machines spread across Equipment Hill, the messaging told the story of how today’s John Deere is a company of technology and innovation.
“We’re focused on modernizing the experience,” she said. “We want to make sure we are providing an upgraded experience for our customers and guests that really match where the brand is going from a more modern tech-focused brand.”
To that end, some of the special VIPs invited to attend included a group of tech influencers who have vast social media followings in the technology world. “We’re bringing them here to tour them around Equipment Hill, the John Deere Pavilion, so they have the idea Deere is not just a farm equipment company, it’s a tech company,” said an executive with Racepoint Global, John Deere’s external PR agency.
Racepoint Global assists Deere on its experiential messaging and displays that promote the equipment maker’s brand at the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
Among the influencers on hand included Myriam Joire, the host of Mobile Tech Podcast; Michael Fisher, who is known as MrMobile and reviews all things technological; Andru Edwards, @ GearLive; Kevin Nether, The Tech Ninja; Brandon Lee, This Is Tech Today; and Josh Vergara.
This marked the second year that influencers were invited to JDC.
Ms. Downing sees the influencers as helping Deere capture a whole new generation of customers and fans. “It’s exciting to see,” she said.
And of course, none of it would be possible without the thousands of volunteers who make the JDC run including countless John Deere employees. “It doesn’t matter if they are production employees or salaried employees, they all come together this week,” she said, adding many plan their vacations around volunteering for their employer.
“It’s so much more than a golf tournament,” Ms. Downing said. “It really puts the Quad Cities on the map. We want people to be out here enjoying the golf, enjoying the hospitality venues … Think about the JDC being on CBS Sports … we want the hospitality venues full. We wouldn’t be able to do this event if it weren’t the support of the community.”