A statement as much as a sponsorship: The added value that comes with supporting women’s sports

Major brands learning sponsorships can play well with their clients and their employees

Cognizant, Mizuho, ShopRite, Acer, KPMG. These companies have two things in common: They are major brands — and they understand the added value that comes through the sponsorship of women’s sports.

That’s the way LPGA Commissioner Mollie Marcoux Samaan sees it. As a former star player and athletic director at Princeton University, Marcoux Samaan has seen the impact sports has on women firsthand. As a business executive — and now a commissioner — she understands the impact it can have on a company.

But only certain companies, she said.

Mollie Marcoux Samaan. (LPGA)

“It certainly has to make sense for brands from a commercial standpoint — and we think it does — but the value is really there if you look forward into where the women’s sports are going,” she said.

“We feel there’s this added bonus of a corporation being able to speak to their values and speak to what they care about. They can use this platform to empower and advance and transform women more broadly.”

It’s a statement as much as it’s a sponsorship, Marcoux Samaan said.

“It’s brand alignment and brand vision,” she said. “There’s this great association where companies can say to not only their customers, but to their employees that we really care about diversity — we don’t just talk about it. We’re putting out our dollars to show it.”

Teaneck-based Cognizant, which is the title sponsor of this week’s Founders Cup event at the Upper Montclair Country Club in Clifton, certainly feels that way.

Antonella Bonanni, Cognizant’s chief marketing officer for the Americas, said the event’s vision matches the mission of the company, which has made bringing more women into the tech community a primary focus.

Antonella Bonanni. (Cognizant)

“We have made an aggressive commitment to helping our women associates not just succeed, but flourish,” she told ROI-NJ last month.

Marcoux Samaan said so many other companies are following — and she feels the payoff will come in ways other than just titles and sponsorship dollars.

“Sports provide great gains for everyone, but particularly for girls,” she said. “If you really project out what girls learn from playing sports, you’ll see it will transform their careers. It’s not just their happiness and growth as a kid, but it will take them to the next level of their life.

“I think the statistic is 95% of female C-suite executives played sports. That’s gigantic. We think it’s our responsibility at the LPGA to dig in on the grassroots level and grow the game, grow the opportunities and make that happen.”

It’s everything Marcoux Samaan dared to dream about when she was a two-sport star at Princeton in the late 1980s. She’s happy to see the new reality — and eager to help it continue.

“It’s been a mindset shift more than anything else,” she said. “We’re seeing it everywhere.

“We’re seeing that, if you put the NCAA Tournament on in good times with good promotion and good marketing, people will watch it, will follow it and be super-energized by it. That’s what we’re capitalizing on.”

Bonanni said Cognizant is all-in.

“We were looking for an organization that was putting in the same time and resources to help increase opportunities for women — that’s what the LPGA is all about,” she said. “Everything about the LPGA was a perfect fit because of its commitment to leveling the playing field for women and fighting for them to get the same opportunities and recognition as their male counterparts.

“It really was synergistic in terms of what we want to achieve as a company in terms of our commitment to diversity, inclusion, specifically when it comes to women’s issues.”