I'm on the PGA -- But Do I Really Want a Pickle Sponsor?

Last Updated Jan 5, 2011 5:34 PM EST

Scott Stallings's business is golf. He's blogging for BNET as he travels about 300 days a year playing on the PGA Tour. Click here to find all of Scott's posts.
I have less than a week to go until my first PGA tournament. For most business people, the holidays are the slowest time of year, but for me it's all about gearing up to start the new season. So apart from one week of rest in Jamaica, I've spent the last few weeks finalizing how I'm going to pay for my next year on tour. A good chunk of the money will come from my investors, but the rest will come from sponsorships.

Now, if you're a Nascar driver, it seems, the sponsorship question is pretty easy: You put pretty much anyone who wants to give you money on your uniform and your car.

It's rare for a pro golfer to go with the Nascar look, giving up most of his shirt fabric to brands, but it's not unheard of. Looking like a walking billboard, however, is not quite my style.

As my agent likes to remind me, sponsors help communicate a golfer's personal brand. The thing is, when you're a young pro, you can't be too picky because sponsorship dollars are limited. Even so, at some point you have to decide whether or not certain sponsorships even make sense.

Last year, I was fortunate to receive more offers than I needed, which means I turned down the brands that were obviously not a good fit: For example, I like pickles as much as the next guy but I don't think promoting them on my golf shirt is necessarily the best athletic partnership.

There was also the time when I got a pitch from a company that makes golf bags. Now that was closer to what I had in mind... except the golf bag they wanted me to carry featured a video screen on the side with a slideshow of advertisements from local companies. I could charge $100 a slide.

I give them points for creativity, but a flashing screen is probably the last thing I want next to me when I'm trying to concentrate.

The last couple of years have been a crash course in business partnerships and in the process I've learned one very important lesson: I'm not into gimmicks. I'm just an honest, hardworking Southern guy from Knoxville, Tenn., who's decent at golf. It's simple, and the best business partners and sponsors for me help me communicate that. (Full disclosure: BNET is one of them.)

So, as much as I like baked beans and as much as I wish I fit the role of spokesman for a trendy line of skintight golf clothes, when I think about whether either one really communicates who I am, I first remind myself that I'm awfully lucky to be on the PGA tour and to receive such unexpected sponsorship opportunities. And then I remember that it's OK to say "no."