If you’ve attended the Masters, or you follow the Masters on Instagram or Twitter, the basics that you know about the financial status is that there are a $1.50 for a sandwich, you’re choosing from pimento cheese or egg salad, $2 for domestic beer, and you’re gonna drop a lot of coin in the merch tent. So from crackers to apparel, everything is branded under the Masters brands. So, companies and brands need to get creative with how they’re positioning their marketing and efforts on site during Masters week.
Alyson and Adam chat with Dino Santiago, a consultant for several brands who has a heavy hand in preparing and setting up the Masters event.
The following excerpt has been edited for space. Check out the full interview here.
Alyson Johnson: Dino, talk with us a little bit about what it is that you do and how you work in the golf industry from an events and activation standpoint.
Dino Santiago: I’m very fortunate to be on the front, middle, and end of the excitement of the Masters week. It brings so many brands together and a lot of money spent during the week of the Masters. The experience itself is where I come into play. I’ve been very fortunate to work with some great clients, in particular one of my clients Wheels Up runs an absolutely mind-blowing experience in Augusta, GA. From the second you land on one of their amazing planes, and you are greeted by their staff, to when you get to your house or where you’re staying, your travel, your entertainment. I’ve been really excited, every year, and fortunate to be able to participate in planning with such a creative group of individuals around probably the biggest golf tournament known. I’m behind the scenes working with the client, working with the partners, working with our guests for the overall best experience to make sure that it all executes smoothly, safely, and more importantly just fun.
Adam Grubb: The Masters is the event of the year, but there’s so many things that happen outside that. When someone goes for the first time, they’re there to experience the course, and do all the things that the patrons do at the tournament. But there’s this other corporate side and hospitality side that happens outside of the course itself that nobody probably even knows. Run us through what you think the most surprising thing is about something that somebody wouldn’t know about the Masters that you’re a part of.
Dino Santiago: Outside of the tournament itself, it’s just a mind-blowing experience. A lot of big corporate brands that are dedicated to the sport of golf and dedicated to educating and charitable events have separated themselves in a way that I’ve never really experienced in all of my years with many different brands. You’ve got multiple brands at every level with golf club members and others across different states of the country for this week, and you come in and you get AAA class treatment. In the past, you get some food on the course, but typically it’s something about that experience on Azalea Drive- it’s just mind-blowing. It’s just the best experience I’ve ever had in terms of hospitality.
Alyson: I’ve run programs at the Masters for years, which is how we’ve met. What you talk about is really important, so the level of guest that is invited to these hospitality programs by companies is a different level of guest. There is there is a tremendous amount of work that goes into this event, so I’m curious, for our audience, who may be interested in just the behind the scenes or people who may be interested in finding these types of gigs to work in, what level of training do you have to give this staff- that may only be coming for a week- about how to interact with that level and caliber of business persons, celebrity guest?
Dino Santiago: It is a higher caliber of guests. Hospitality is a taught skill set, you can go and learn it, you can go study it in schools and everything, but I’ll be quite frank- what it really comes down to is, you treat every single person as if they are your best client, they are your VIP. There’s no differentiating one VIP from the other, whether he or she is an analyst on TV or just somebody who’s a guest of a member. I think when it comes to that, you have to have a certain soft side to a very hard-line approach of satisfying this guest. Another thing we’ve been able to do is build on these teams year in and year out.
Once you get into a certain niche with a team and there’s good cohesive energy and execution, you really don’t have to veer off that far, so a lot of the people in my experiences- the same catering partner, the same production agency, the same AV partner, so a lot of the staff on their end is already accustomed to what is expected throughout the week. You never know who you’re going to talk to, you never know who’s walking through when you’re in the middle of building it out. So I think the skill set is just passion about what you do. Respectful understanding of the experience for whoever is in front of you is so very important.
Adam: So you really work for a multitude of people, right? You are representing the Masters. you’re representing Augusta, you’re representing Wheels Up, you’re representing the people that are inside that tent. It seems incredibly difficult and challenging that you have to make all of those people happy. What is that week like, in all your events- Super Bowls, all the big, next-level events that you handle? How do you do that? How do you make everybody happy?
Dino Santiago: I like to focus on myself too when I’m doing these things. I’m very particular about the projects I choose, the partners I choose, because I don’t want to gas out. I want to make sure that I give a hundred percent as Dino Santiago. So in chasing that dream of making myself happy, I’m very fortunate to have a big team. There is a tremendous amount of people behind the scenes, especially with my experience with Augusta and the Masters and the partners, but the Wheels Up team is just so buttoned-up and so high-level at every position along the line. From the second we open the doors, from the day we start planning six months in advance, it’s easier to make people happy when you have a really good team, and everybody shares that responsibility. You have to be quick, you have to be smart and you have to also be polite and compassionate for other people too.
Alyson: I know what that week looks like from your perspective, in time spent and energy spent. You’ve got some days where you’re the first to be there, the last to leave every day. What do you do so that you as a professional are able to make it through such an intense, long week?
Dino Santiago: Yeah, it’s very intense. Fortunately for me, time management, when you have time, is a lot easier. So I come in very early, before the Masters; I’m in town 10 days before we even start and our team, who is responsible for building and doing all of the things to get us there, they’re in town a month in advance. The hospitality is managed by a lot of the Wheels Up staff, and the Wheels Up corporate team that knows the members and has been cultivating the relationship and planning with them months and months in advance.
The hospitality house is being built by a different agency, so they’re kind of working their thing getting the hospitality going up and running once the doors open on wednesday. I mean they are there every day, all day and then typically by that point of the week, I’m preparing for our big gala and you know that’s a Thursday night event. By Wednesday, I’ll have myself fully on site, the entire day, preparing for that big jam. Once that happens, I get to shift gears a little bit. I’m constantly in contact with the team at the hospitality house, but it takes an army to make this many people, at this high level of client service, to be happy. I focus on what’s most important to me at this given moment of the week, for what we have planned for everybody. There’s just so much going on, I can only be in so many places, but I do use the trust that I have with these partners that we’ve worked with for many years.
Watch the full interview here to learn more about how Dino and other companies adapt to the craziness of the Masters week.
Key takeaway: The amount of work, effort, energy, and hours that is put into setting up Masters week is unimaginable. So kick back, and tune into it this week!