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Kingdom Magazine: Issue 12

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Arnold Palmer, Inc.

January 13, 2009

We all know that Arnold Palmer’s role in golf is legendary, but his impact on business has been as remarkable. Chris Rodell takes a look at the books and gets sold on The King’s global influence...

About the only item you can’t purchase through Arnold Palmer Inc. is, well, Arnold Palmer ink. Scroll through 50 years of advertisements, files, contracts and promotions and you can’t find any juice for when your pen goes empty.

You can, however, get one of the many stylish brands of Arnold Palmer pens and use it to write notes on Arnold Palmer stationary or to keep score on one of more than 300 courses around the world designed by the Arnold Palmer Design Company. Use the pen to Arnold Palmer dog collars, card games, bed sheets or CD holders. Figure your handicap on an Arnold Palmer calculator, keep a Palmer mouse pad next to you computer and get around the kitchen in an Arnold Palmer apron. No kidding, you can get just about anything you want branded with the Palmer name except the ink (at least not yet). But the success of Arnold Palmer Enterprises—and the business achievements of the man himself—have to do with far more than just his popular name.

“Arnold Palmer has always been a step ahead, a man in front of time,” says Scott Curry, an APE marketing executive. “For example many modern golfing superstars now have private jets but they can’t fly them themselves. Arnold has flown his own jet for decades enabling him to combine golf whilst simultaneously extending the global reach of his name and his companies.”

Scott says this adaptability has led Palmer to work with many of the corporate world’s most prestigious companies; including Rolex, Cadillac and Callaway (just to name a few). But rather than get lost amidst the blitz of business brands, “He has always been recognizably his own man,” says Curry. “Try finding a picture of him sporting the logo of a sponsor, and you’ll discover the insignia on his shirt has always been the umbrella.”

The umbrella dates back to 1963, and it is a Palmer concept. Befitting Palmer’s personality it is bold but fun, with bright splashes of red, white, yellow and green across the panels. Most golfers use umbrellas to simply repel falling water, Arnold used his to attract another element: Money. Under the Palmer umbrella are more than 90 satisfied licensees spread across three continents who link to Palmer to help their robust businesses thrive.

Despite the large scale of his enterprise, Arnold Palmer’s business network seems downright intimate and friendly. Anyone who’s spent time at Bay Hill or met Arnie at an event won’t be surprised; there is perhaps no head of a large conglomerate so approachable.

Palmer’s easy-going, straightforward but elegant manner is represented in his fashion as well, as GQ magazine recently recognized by placing him in the all time Top 50 list of the world’s most stylish men. No surprise, apparel is a staple of Palmer’s enterprise. AP clothing goods are available on three continents in 33 countries. Young girls in Japan shop at AP stores for what are considered in Tokyo to be trendy fashions. It’s likely they have no idea that Arnold Palmer ever struck a golf ball, but the Renown brand of clothes that bear his name are decidedly cool, and rank alongside Polo Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger as classic American Brands.

Arnold Palmer

Not long after their handshake deal effectively launched IMG—a business subject that merits a further article in its own right—Palmer and Mark McCormack (the IMG founder and touchstone pioneer of sports marketing) decided to take the Palmer name to the burgeoning markets of Asia. To generations of Japanese, South Korean and Chinese customers, Arnold Palmer simply means “America.” They snap up AP jackets, swimwear, pajamas, aprons, socks, lingerie, scarves, suspenders, neckties, hair bands, sandals and even dog apparel. Closer to home, Arnold Palmer clothes will be sold in more than 1,200 J.C. Penney stores nationwide beginning in February.

Arnold Palmer

During a credit crunch it is always sensible to have some liquidity, and Ketel One is an excellent source of that. Mr. Palmer’s relationship with the brand is a perfect example of how his integrity—not just his popularity—drive the market for his name. There can be no doubting the truth in the Ketel One ad that runs: “We know you’re not influenced by what other people drink, however, we thought you’d like to know Arnold Palmer drinks Ketel One.” That ad has appeared in numerous top magazines, including Golf Digest, the largest selling golf publication in the world where, incidentally, Palmer is a marquee playing editor.

Ketel One

Of course, on the beverage front Palmer is most known for the family friendly non-alcoholic libation that he popularized and which bears his name. The “Arnold Palmer” (consisting of half lemonade/half iced tea) appears on menus around the world and was even mentioned during the final season of “The Sopranos.” Today, the AriZona Beverage Co. offers it in a new distinctive 20-ounce twist-off golf ball bottle.

More than just being known for the drink, Arnold Palmer actually drinks it. Same with Ketel One. In fact, Mr. Palmer has always been adamant about standing behind the products he endorses. When his hearing began to fail he started using and sponsoring Starkey Hearing Aids, powering them with Palmer-endorsed Rayovac batteries. His appreciation of fine engineering and top quality means that as long as he’s endorsed Rolex, there’s been a Rolex on his wrist. His relationship with that company is so appreciated that, years after Arnold’s first meeting with then-Rolex chair Andre Heineger in 1961 in Japan, it’s still being celebrated. As Rolex’s current Managing Director Patrick Heiniger (son of Andre) said during a July 2007 event honoring Palmer and other sports legends, “What we share transcends our association through sport and is rooted in the timeless values that each one of you celebrates in your daily life, be it through your philanthropic work, your business activities, your passions, your hobbies.”

Rolex and Arnold Palmer

When it comes to standing behind a product you endorse, use of an aircraft might be the best show of support yet. Palmer’s long history with Cessna is certainly that. For many of the 50 years he’s had a pilot’s license, Palmer has had a close working relationship with the aircraft manufacturer. Since 1996, he’s flown the excellent Citation X, among other planes. And when he lands, there’s Wyndham, the high quality global hospitality provider he endorses, and which gives back to the game (they’re the title sponsor of the PGA’s Wyndham Championships, which Palmer attended in 2008).

Arnold Palmer Design CompanyOn the subject of golf courses, Arnold Palmer Design Company has built some 300 courses around the world, including numerous PGA Tour stops and The K Club, host of the 2006 Ryder Cup. You can also have your course managed by Arnold Palmer Golf Management, a division of Century Golf.

Naturally Mr. Palmer’s reach within the industry of golf is huge. You’ll find Palmer-recommended Callaway golf gear, Lampkin grips, EZ-Go golf carts, and Jacobsen maintenance equipment. Off-course, you can read Arnold Palmer books or watch shows on the Golf Channel, an enterprise Palmer endorsed and actively supported when critics were sniffing that no one in their right mind would watch a channel dedicated solely to golf.

There’s more, of course. There are Encore Banks in Texas and Florida; a superb Arnold Palmer Restaurant in La Quinta, California; Arnold Palmer Motors in his Latrobe hometown and Arnold Palmer Cadillac of Charlotte; and let’s not forget Latrobe Country Club and the Arnold Palmer Invitational sponsored by MasterCard at the fabulous Bay Hill Club and Lodge in Orlando. (This year it was March 23-29).

Then there is this very magazine, Kingdom. The magazine started as a way for “The King” to keep in touch with you and the members of all the APDC designed courses. Now people collect these luxurious keepsakes and signed copies are sold for hundreds of dollars.

Arnold Palmer at his namesake hospital in Orlando FLYet for all his personal financial and business success it is the money that Mr. Palmer has raised for charity that brings him the most satisfaction. The Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children, The Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women and Babies, the Eisenhower Medical Center, and Arnie’s Army Battles Prostate Cancer, to name but a few of the charities Mr. Palmer has been involved with over the years, have all helped improve and save countless lives.

A famous golfer, yes. But Arnold Palmer, Inc. is so much more—even if it’s not in the business of ink itself.

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