The WM Phoenix Open is famously known as the “Greenest Show on Grass,” a claim it can make in part because of the tournament’s partnership with Jani-King International, a leading global commercial cleaning services franchise company responsible for cleaning up after the roughly 800,000 fans who visit TPC Scottsdale during tournament week.
Julie Robinson, Jani-King’s regional franchisor in Arizona, is proud of her company’s long-time involvement in her hometown tournament. But for Robinson, “green” doesn’t just mean clean. It’s also a great opportunity to bring in more dollars and business to her franchisees year-round by demonstrating how Jani-King can handle such an enormous challenge.
“In Phoenix, the Open is where business gets done during tournament week. Basically, everybody is out there,” Robinson said. “If we’re trying to get hold of a decisionmaker to secure a cleaning contract, they’re at the Open, either entertaining their clients or being entertained by other folks. So for us, it’s a benefit to be able to say we’re a partner in trying to make this an amazing experience for the fans. We’re proud of the two local franchisees covering the Open with their team of 90 providing exceptional service at the largest event on the PGA Tour.”
At the WM Open, Jani-King plans to take its Tour relationship to the next level with its Spring Clean Challenge. During Wednesday’s pro-am at TPC Scottsdale’s raucous par-3 16th, caddies of participating players will pull out specially made green Jani-King golf towels to indicate they’re competing in the Challenge.
The competition will take place over nine events, starting April 4 at the Valero Texas Open and ending in mid-May at the PGA Championship. The tournaments correspond with what Mike Biggs, Jani-King’s senior vice president of sports partnerships, calls a “fault line” of regional franchisors who are avid supporters of the company’s PGA Tour sponsorship. Those territory owners will promote the Challenge via local public relations efforts and use of a participating player that week for customer and prospect engagement. The Challenge’s main purpose, as Biggs describes it, “is to tell the story of the company behind the towel.”
“The people at Jani-King have been awesome,” said Ryan Palmer, who has endorsed the company for the past decade. “It’s been a great relationship for me because I respect their dedication to the game of golf. When you work with people like that, it makes you feel like you’re at home. It means a lot to me that they put their trust in me to represent them.”
The five players committed to the Spring Clean Challenge – Palmer, Joel Dahmen, J.T. Poston, Adam Schenk, and Sepp Straka – will accumulate FedExCup points, with the top three finishers collecting a bonus from the $55,000 pot, which includes $5,000 and a commemorative trophy for the winning caddie. Former Tour player and one-time Jani-King playing ambassador Colt Knost, now working for CBS, will serve as the Challenge’s host and promoter.
Jani-King’s PGA Tour partnership is one of those under-the-radar sponsorships that has been a hole-in-one for everyone involved.
Like many things in this relationship-based industry, Jani-King’s commitment to the PGA Tour expanded as a result of a round of golf. James Edmondson, who was Palmer’s long-time caddie, invited Biggs to be his playing partner at a Colonial Country Club member-guest tournament in 2015. Edmondson had recently helped form the Association of Professional Tour Caddies, which he used to serve as president. Caddying is a precarious profession, buffeted by high expenses and uncertain job security. The APTC was formed to find sponsorship opportunities to make life a little easier for loopers.
That day at Colonial, Biggs told Edmondson he wanted to support the caddies, so they kicked around some ideas. The one piece of sponsorship “real estate” the caddies owned was the towel.
“Cleaning and a towel, that’s like a perfect fit for us,” Biggs recalled thinking.
Edmondson initially hand-picked 10 caddies who worked for high-profile players to carry the Jani-King golf towel, and he recalled that Biggs quickly came back to him with plans for a multi-year sponsorship because the towel was generating so much buzz. These days, on any given Thursday on the PGA Tour, you might see more than 100 caddies carrying Jani-King golf towels. It’s effectively become the Titleist of the golf accessories market.
“It’s gone from ‘what is this?’ to ‘this is what you’re supposed to do,’” Edmondson said. “I’m sure other companies would love to be a part of that, but Jani-King is the one that took the leap of faith in the caddies, and there’s a mutual respect among our group. It’s been really cool to see what it’s turned into and provided for a group of guys.”
Jani-King was hardly new to sports marketing before its commitment to the Tour and its caddies. The company sponsored NASCAR and short-track racing more than 20 years ago. Biggs said when he first joined Jani-King, he might get two requests per year from regional franchisors for NASCAR tickets, but more than two dozen requests for PGA Tour tickets to use for customer hospitality. At a time when Jani-King had just started moving its national branding focus from motorsports to golf, it made sense to expand those efforts.
“First and foremost, more business decision makers are associated with the sport of golf, in my opinion, than any other sport,” said Biggs, who has served in various capacities in golf marketing since 1991. “It’s great for entertaining customers, getting to decision makers for commercial cleaning needs. Also, a lot of our people who own Jani-King locations throughout the country love and support golf. So it was a no-brainer and fit right in with what I could envision as a way to continue the enhancement and awareness of the brand through sports marketing.”
Along the way, the Jani-King golf towel has become something of a cultural icon. At The Sentry in Maui in January, a volunteer approached Edmondson, now working for Tom Hoge, and told him she was desperate to score one of the towels. “That’s my name!” the woman told Edmondson. Her name was Janice King, but her mother called her “Jani.” So Edmondson gifted her a towel.
“You’d have thought I’d have given her a gold bar. It was so cute,” Edmondson said. “So now Jani King has a Jani-King towel.”
For more information on Jani-King or the Spring Clean Challenge, visit www.janiking.com or follow Jani-King on Facebook, Instagram, X, LinkedIn, and YouTube.