Widely known for their expensive yet extremely popular coolers, YETI is using sports – both mainstream and unconventional – to diversify its business portfolio.
Founded in 2006, YETI signed a multi-year agreement with the PGA Tour in September. It’s only YETI’s third league partnership after previously inking deals with both NASCAR and Professional Bull Riders in 2017.
“Our focus is to engage in the communities in which there is already a relevant connection to our brand,” YETI CMO Melisa Goldie said. “Some of our original partnerships, specifically with PBR and NASCAR, evolved from existing connections in the rodeo and southern communities, respectively. Expanding into official partnerships allowed us to deepen those relationships and dive into what those customers are most passionate about.”
The deal, which makes YETI the Official Insulated Cup and Official Insulated Cooler of both the PGA Tour and the PGA Tour Champions. It includes product licensing and gives the PGA Tour the exclusive right to sell YETI merchandise at TOUR-operated retail outlets, said Brian Oliver, the PGA Tour’s executive vice president of corporate sponsorships. It will also be sold across the tour’s TPC facilities, which host many annual golf events, and YETI will be on display in player practice areas.
“We know our brand is relevant in the golfing community,” Goldie said. “This partnership encompasses more than just signature drinks and concessionaire participation and will allow for a broader presence at TPC courses year-round. It’s a win for the PGA TOUR and we think consumers will be excited to see YETI there.”
Similar to its long-standing relationships with NASCAR and PBR, the PGA Tour has worked heavily with YETI in recent years. During the 2019 season, the Austin-based company appeared at numerous PGA-Tour events – including the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play in Austin in late-March, the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational in late-July, and the Tour Championship in late-August.
At these events, YETI would have its “signature cup” program on display for spectators to purchase. It consisted of specially branded 20-ounce YETI ramblers and let fans refill it around the golf course during match play, said Oliver. While he declined to report specific sales figures, he mentioned that by the weekend of tour events, the YETI signature cup program would sell out.
“It was the success of that program that led us to – in recent weeks and months – have a more in-depth conversation about how we broaden that [YETI relationship],” Oliver said. “How we would broaden that to an official marketing partnership with the PGA Tour, which would include more activation at some of our events as well as placement within our retail locations.”
While Oliver says that YETI’s past success with NASCAR and PBR had no bearing on the PGA Tour, he did notice these relationships prosper over time. When NASCAR engaged in partnership discussions with YETI at the end of 2016, its sports involvement was primarily on the licensing side, said Lou Garate, NASCAR’s senior vice president of partnership marketing.
When YETI became the Official Outdoor Product of NASCAR in May 2017, Garate says that it was an instant success on the racetrack. At NASCAR’s creative shops nationwide, fans would be able to stop by and customize any YETI product to their liking. Previously people would have to go to YETI facilities to purchase customizable products. He said that with NASCAR, YETI experienced year-over-year sales growth in 2017 – with hopes of bringing back this innovative product line to future seasons.
“They’ve been trying to find unique and different ways to sort of reach our consumers,” Garate said. “We have done things with them – we integrate their product into a lot of the events that we do. Anything that’s on-track to off-track, partner engagements, consumer-facing programs and things of that nature -we always try to make sure that we capture those opportunities in some of the content that we’re producing.”
The first sports company to get involved with YETI was PBR. The two originally had a one-year partnership in 2013, but a hiatus followed until 2017, when YETI became PBR’s official cooler and drinkware provider, according to PBR Vice President of Partnerships Marketing Justin Street.
Street says that the similarities between the two organizations made a union inevitable: both showcase an affinity for the outdoors and attract fans with unique senses of humor, he said. Most importantly, however, he says that YETI does more than illuminate the PBR riders or brand. It also educates the audience on another important element to PBR: the bull.
“The bulls side of the PBR business is a fascinating piece of our business,” Street said. “We have relationships with stock contractors all over the country who breed and care for the very best bucking bulls in the world and getting YETI to be open to the idea of really telling that story. So through our partnership with YETI, they’re the foremost brand that we work with that tells the story of the bulls as athletes both in the arena and at home.”
To bring awareness to that side of PBR, PBR and YETI launched its #BuiltForTheWild social media campaign in mid-September. While people know that PBR athletes receive points every event and are in a standings system, Street says that it’s often forgotten that bulls are also scored. With #BuiltForTheWild, it picks a winning bull after each event and prepares them for the PBR World Finals 2019, which is on November 6 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
The media attention around #BuiltForTheWild has proven to connect with the PBR fanbase. One particular Facebook post – Ryan Dirteater and Bruiser – garnered over 700,000 impressions and 88,000 video views. In the last three months, YETI has received an additional 1.1 million impressions through World Champion Bull Race content across PBR’s social media platforms.
These have contributed to a 2019 season in which YETI has drawn over 7.3M impressions as apart of its digital media plan – with its PBR content received 1.5M and 287,000 video and minute views, respectively. Given the impact it’s had on the PBR community, Street is confident that every year going forward, YETI will continue to find new, creative ways to connect with people.
“The natural fit between our two companies and the objectives that we share is something that you kind of dream about,” Street said. “The things that we as the PBR find important are things that the YETI family finds important. We have a huge segment of our fan base that comes out that are bull fans and want to know everything that there are about those athletes. And YETI helps us unlock those stories for all of our fans.”