A Sanderson Farms executive said Wednesday that a decision whether to pick up the three-year option to sponsor the Sanderson Farms Championship golf tournament would be made this week.
Mike Cockrell, Sanderson treasurer and CFO, said the company’s board will address the option during a meeting Thursday.
The Laurel-based poultry producer stepped in as the title sponsor earlier this year, four months before the tournament, which concluded Sunday, was set to begin. Sanderson replaced Viking Range Corp. as the event’s title sponsor. Sanderson’s agreement was for this year’s tournament only, but a three-year option was included. The company has 30 days to exercise or decline the option.
“So I think they’ll decide fairly quickly,” Cockrell said. “They need to hear from those of us who were on the ground, what our experience was. One of the reasons we did this obviously was to benefit (the Blair E. Batson Children’s hospital at University of Mississippi Medical Center), as far as how much we were able to contribute through the Birdies for Charity program. That was our main deal to be honest.”
Cockrell said if Sanderson does renew its sponsorship, one of the priorities will be to spread the tournament’s reach across Mississippi. Right now, he said, it’s mainly an event for Metro Jackson. It’s played at Madison’s Annandale Golf Club. “It really doesn’t get a lot of play beyond that area,” Cockrell said.
Serving as the title sponsor for the tournament represented Sanderson’s first serious foray into the world of public relations and marketing, Cockrell said. Assessing the return the company got will be one of the things the board considers as it makes its decision. Sanderson hired The Cirlot Agency, a Jackson-based PR and branding firm, to market Sanderson and the tournament.
“This is a new venture for us,” Cockrell said. “(The board) needs to get a feel for how the PR went. It was our first time working with a big PR firm. It’s actually been amazing to me how they track how many times we were mentioned whether on a sports or news broadcast, and how much mentions like that would have cost in a traditional advertising setting. They tracked all that, and the board will examine that very closely. We’ll report on that. As an aside, we need to determine whether our customers enjoyed it, and whether we got the right bang for our buck. The rest of it is basically a gut feeling. But I can tell you we had a really good experience with all of it.”
Tournament director Kathryn Satcher said officials were able to do everything they wanted to do in the four months they had to plan. “They were a great partner,” she said of Sanderson.
Satcher said Wednesday the final numbers were still being calculated, but that attendance exceeded last year’s tournament. She attributed that to most of the hospitality tents and events being located around the 18th hole, instead of being spread across Annandale like years past.
“That concentrated the energy in one place, and people really responded,” Satcher said.