Princeton Information, a privately held technology staffing company, isn't the kind of firm you would expect to sponsor a professional golfer. The PGA Tour attracts the biggest brands in American business, such as Nike ( NKE) and AT&T ( T). Manhattan-based Princeton Information employs 900 workers in nine U.S. locations and one in India. It took in $145 million in revenue last year. While it's not a global company, Princeton Information has jumped into the game by backing John Senden, a fifth-year pro from Australia who's ranked 122nd in the world. We spoke to Justin Marcus, 39, chief operating officer at Princeton Information, about the company's strategy. He's also an avid golfer. How did Princeton Information end up sponsoring John Senden? Marcus: Back in 2007, a friend of a friend introduced me to a guy who worked for Goal Marketing. They represent sports figures with a specialty in professional golfers. Eventually, I met with Goal's CEO, who presented the concept and three or four of its guys, and we decided on John Senden. Did you meet with Senden in person before making a deal? Marcus: I did not, but I spoke to him and a couple of other players on the phone. He won the Australian Open and the John Deere ( DE) Classic in 2006. I knew who John was, even though I didn't know that much about him. Obviously, I couldn't afford a top-20 player; they were in the high six- to seven-figure range. We struck a two-year deal. What do you get for your investment? Marcus: No. 1, John wears our logo on his left chest in every U.S. tour event. The hat is the most expensive, and players typically have their club sponsor there. No. 2, we get him for a handful of corporate events annually. The PGA Tour stops in just about every one of our U.S. locations; that's where the real benefit is to us.
On the day after the tournament, we'll typically set up John with our clients, playing six or nine holes with two or three groups of three clients and one Princeton employee. Our clients get to tee it up with a guy who's been a world top-50 player. Through Goal, we also get tickets for clients at almost every tournament except the Masters. They also help us set up a tent at events if we want, for entertaining our clients. Any other benefits? Marcus: I have clients who email me when he has a good finish, like his second place at Tampa last year: "Hey, John had a great week." It creates camaraderie, not only between the salesperson and the client but also within the company. Did you give much thought to the relationship between the two brands. That is, Princeton Information and John Senden? Marcus: We did. We're a second-generation family business. We don't do much PR. We're not the world's biggest firm. We wanted a quality player but also a quality person, someone serious and hardworking, who kept to himself on the course but was also sociable and good with clients and our internal staff. We had a good gel from the beginning. Do you worry about any negative associations with golf, given the economy and the scrutiny some tour sponsors have come under? Marcus: The companies that were part of TARP (the Troubled Assets Relief Program) are the ones under scrutiny. Private, successful companies aren't being criticized. The whole thing is a short- or medium-term issue. The PGA Tour does more for charity than any other sport. It's great to be associated with them; they're a first-class organization. Any recommendations for other companies thinking about sponsoring a pro? Marcus: If these were better times, I'd consider sponsoring several players, like the Bank of Omaha does. My advice would be to make sure you meet or speak with the player several times. Make a list of what your goals are and what you want. There are lots of different personality types out on Tour, from super-serious and super-quiet to fun, loud and boisterous.
It adds to the team flavor within the company and with our clients, who take home with them a lasting memory. It's a much greater benefit than taking someone to lunch, or even just a game of golf. They get to play with a top guy. When you think about it, that's very cool.