How Morgan Stanley Elevated its Golf Sponsorship with Augmented Reality and Full-service Hospitality

Four ways the brand refreshed its strategy for the 50th annual Players Championship

“Over the last eight years, it’s been fun to connect with our clients and consumers in new and meaningful ways, and this partnership helps do that while still reinforcing our commitment to growth and access and opportunity in the sport of golf.”

–Alice Milligan, CMO, Morgan Stanley

Morgan Stanley has been hitting the green as a sponsor of The Players Championship in Ponte Vedra Beach, FL, since 2017. But at this year’s event (March 14-17), with a refreshed corporate positioning—Old School Grit, New World Ideas—and the tournament’s 50th anniversary on tap, the financial services company took the opportunity to reimagine how it engaged fans and clients on and off the course. In a bid to showcase both its heritage and digital-forward mindset at the 2024 event, Morgan Stanley furthered its mission to make golf more accessible with touchpoints that appealed to the sport’s multigenerational, and increasingly diverse, fan base.

The brand’s net was cast far and wide at the TPC Sawgrass golf course, and beyond. Indeed, Morgan Stanley developed everything from an augmented reality experience to an enhanced hospitality program this year. So we asked Alice Milligan, cmo at Morgan Stanley, for insights into the new sponsorship strategy and how it plays into broader business objectives.

nbc-sports-players-island-2023-putting TeaserMore on Golf Sponsorship:

An AR ‘Tour Through Time’

Maintaining and celebrating its brand heritage while also demonstrating its progressive mindset is a top priority for Morgan Stanley. And with an Accenture study revealing that 50 percent of consumers better recall brands that regularly engage them with immersive technologies, it only made sense to give the people what they want.

Enter: Tour Through Time, a custom AR experience that can (still) be accessed via QR code. The digital activation takes users through nine legendary Players Championship moments across its 50-year history. The journey is guided by longtime Morgan Stanley brand ambassador and 11-time PGA Tour winner Justin Rose, who provides exclusive commentary for each moment.

For Morgan Stanley, it was critical that the experience was accessible not only to attendees on-site at TPC, but to just about anyone around the world with a smartphone.

“It was amazing to see the fun people had, the way [AR] brought different generations and groups together, and I also think it does a really nice job of making people who are watching The Players at home feel like they’re part of the historic moment,” says Milligan.

She adds: “The ‘Old School Grit, New World Ideas’ messaging is about looking at the legacy of the firm, but [also] this whole innovative spirit—new technologies and new capabilities that we have brought on through a lot of acquisitions, like E*TRADE. So this idea of how do you pair this history, this legacy with innovation—AR really spoke to that.”

morgan stanley players tour through time_AR_2024_

The Morgan Stanley Fan Experience Tent included replicas of three historic putts.


An Upgraded Fan Experience Tent

The Morgan Stanley Fan Experience Tent got an upgrade for the championship’s 50th anniversary. Hosted at the 18th hole, the space featured three stations that served as replicas of historic putts, and entailed a hand-guided putting green experience for each shot. Fans could also participate in the Tour Through Time activation. Those who experienced all nine AR moments for themselves were then eligible to receive prizes within the tent, like an exclusive, co-branded 50th anniversary championship and Morgan Stanley hat.

“A lot of what we’ve been thinking about from a strategic standpoint is ensuring that broader groups know that the history, the knowledge, the intellectual property that Morgan Stanley has is accessible to all,” Milligan says. “We wanted that to be the same experience at The Players.”


More High-touch Hospitality

Morgan Stanley’s clients were treated to intimate, more personalized hospitality experiences at TPC Sawgrass this year, as well as a full immersion into the firm’s new look and positioning. Among updates, the brand created client-specific activations and provided access to high-touch, full-service hospitality areas across the tournament.

“As a firm, we’ve really been pushing into how do you continue to do things that are fresh for the public and for consumers who are looking at your brand,” Milligan says. “So we were looking at our hospitality experience for clients that we bring to the event and upgrading that, refreshing it, making it feel new and different, infusing all of our new brand imagery, our campaign language, our positioning, all of that throughout the hospitality space.”

morgan stanley pga players championship interior lounge 2024

The brand implemented a new, more curated approach to hospitality this year.


A Cause Tied to Company Objectives

Since the inception of its sponsorship, Morgan Stanley has implemented an Eagles for Impact initiative that entails donating $5,000 for every eagle made during The Players Championship to support First Tee, a youth organization that empowers kids to develop life skills through golf, and its Coach Diversity Initiative.

To up the ante for the 50th anniversary, the brand pledged to donate an additional $50,000 to the organization if 50 or more eagles were made during the tournament. With 58 of them racked up in the end, Morgan Stanley ultimately donated $340,000 to the cause. (Fun fact: An eagle-tracking device within the Fan Experience Tent sounded each time a donation milestone was reached, and all fans inside the tent at the time won a prize.)

For the brand, Eagles for Impact is another avenue for increasing access to and representation in the sport of golf, and maps back to Morgan Stanley’s broader corporate commitment to providing accessible financial tools and services to all.

“When we think about the next-gen, diverse appeal of the brand and our products and services, and the message that encapsulate what we want to do, this partnership really helps us do that,” Milligan says.

Photo credit: David Christopher Banks

Kait Shea
Posted by Kait Shea

Kait joined EM in 2015 and today enjoys her role as senior editor, digital content. When she’s not in reporter mode, rocking mermaid pants at Comic-Con or running laps at MWC Barcelona, you can find her at home listening to music.
View all articles by Kait Shea →

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