MegaCorp's right place, right time good fortune

The North Carolina-based logistics company scored big when Brian Harman won the British Open wearing its relatively unknown logo prominently on his hat

In an age where the messages on the front of a hat are often political or confusing acronyms and abbreviations, the story behind MegaCorp Logistics taking over the world and golfer Brian Harman’s hat has been a right-place, right-time scenario.

Last month, Harman, the bulldog of a southpaw golfer, rolled through the British Open at Royal Liverpool to win by six strokes. He took potshots from the often-surly British gallery and queries about his 5-foot-7-inch stature, bow-hunting prowess and upbringing in Savannah, Georgia.

Equally as topical were the questions about the logo he sported on the front of his golf hat. That exposure continued the following two weeks when J.T. Poston, another MegaCorp-hatted golfer, tied for second at the PGA Tour's 3M Open and seventh at the Wyndham Championship.

This season, more than 90% of the PGA Tour's winners sport hats featuring or golf manufacturers or Tour-affiliated corporations. That is what has made MegaCorp so unique. A somewhat mysterious name not seen before in that prominent spot became a popular Google search and off-the-cuff joke sensation.

Brian Harman and MegaCorp
Brian Harman has worn the MegaCorp logo on the front of his hat since 2018.

"They’re eating it up, having fun with it," said Harman of MegaCorp while in Memphis for the FedEX St. Jude Championship, his first start since the British Open. "I kind of feel like I’m seeing true love right from the start, that we’re made for each other."

On Sunday, July 23, as Harman was plowing through a rainy and cool final round, approximately 100 MegaCorp employees had a watch party at their Wilmington, North Carolina, headquarters. Katie Braskett, MegaCorp’s director of marketing, noted the explosion of interest that included the company’s Google analytics profile increasing by approximately 5,000%, a fire hose of sponsorship inquiries across other sports, a partnership with sports and pop culture blog Barstool Sports, continual in-house sellouts of its black and white hats, and phone and email engagements that are never ending.

The initial sponsorship goals, Braskett said, were brand awareness and talking points for prospecting future clients, and both exceeded expectations in a few hours of broadcast coverage of Harman's British Open win.

MegaCorp isn’t a sinister group threatening a hostile takeover, as some have joked, referencing decades of science-fiction literature and movies. The logistics company acts as a middleman between goods producers and carriers nationally, billing customers for delivering their products to stores and paying the transporters for shelf placement.

The 14-year-old company brought in just shy of $1 billion in revenue in 2022, up from $50 million a decade ago, and has locations in five U.S. cities — Wilmington; Cincinnati, Ohio; Jacksonville, Florida; and Elkins and Morgantown, West Virginia — with more than 500 employees and projected 10 to 15% growth in 2023. The key golf connection is CEO Ryan Legg's love of the sport.

Legg and his wife Denise are West Virginians who have been involved in logistics for more than three decades. Ryan focused on improving his golf game during a three-year, non-compete clause with a previous company through the late 2000s. That resulted in membership at golf clubs such as Eagle Point Golf Club in MegaCorp's Wilmington backyard, Caves Valley Golf Club near Baltimore and Diamond Creek in the North Carolina mountains.

The company began to delve into golf sponsorship in 2017 by working with golfers Cameron Tringale and Thomas Aiken, though neither had the front-of-hat higher tier spot. Previous and current sponsorships outside of golf have been with a professional fisherman and drag racer.

“After meeting Brian, we really hit it off pretty good, and I really needed someone when they’re playing with customers who can do the same thing,” Legg told Wilmington television station WECT in 2018.

MegaCorp Logistics CEO Ryan Legg, left, and Brian Harman.

In May 2017, Harman won the Wells Fargo Championship at Eagle Point. Normally held in Charlotte, the tournament had relocated for a year since the PGA Championship was bound for Charlotte’s Quail Hollow Club later that year. Harman wore a TaylorMade logo hat for his second PGA Tour victory, sinking a long birdie putt on the final green to edge Dustin Johnson.

When Harman returned later it 2017 for a First Tee fundraiser at Eagle Point, he and his agent, Jeremy Elliott, were looking for a hat sponsor for 2018. Harman was paired for a time with Legg and others from MegaCorp. The parties hit it off and Harman was signed to begin the 2018 season.

“So many of these business deals are chance encounters, as close as the hometown or home club,” Elliott said. “Golf is very relational where a lot of business is generated. If the golf event being paired with Ryan doesn’t happen, then this probably doesn’t happen. It’s very unique.”

Harman’s laid-back persona fit well with a company that spends a lot of time dealing with trucking companies.

“They have been an absolute blast and they come out in droves to support me,” Harman said. “We turn down stuff all the time. I never wanted to get into a business relationship with somebody where I didn’t feel like I could be authentic and be myself. They have allowed me the freedom to do whatever I want. We get along really well.

“I’m so happy that people are getting to see how great even the corporate world can be because those guys are absolutely a riot to be around.”

Poston met Legg during a 2022 golf event at Congaree Golf Club in rural South Carolina. Like Harman, the personalities jived and MegaCorp was aiming for a second PGA Tour player to sponsor. Poston came on board to begin 2023. Harman's and Poston's caddies, Scott Tway and Aaron Flener, respectively, wear MegaCorp hats after getting separate agreements.

The Amana logo hat was one of the first corporate-sponsored headwear to appear on the PGA Tour.

The whole idea of wearing a logo on a golf hat, mostly for television exposure, began in the late 1960s in a business model that speaks to MegaCorp’s current trajectory. Amana, an Iowa-based household appliance company, started placing its gaudy, large horizontal logo on high-crowned, white hats. The classic lids were an extension of Amana’s mid-summer pro-am where, beginning in 1967, the company chartered 30 to 40 PGA Tour pros from the previous week’s event into Iowa City to mix with celebrities and Amana dealers, distributors and top customers for an early week shindig, and then transported them to the following week’s Tour stop.

Some golfers wore the logo of the course they were playing that week or their own corporate logo when they sported a hat. But most PGA Tour golfers at the time didn’t protect themselves from the sun, but soon some started showing up with mostly white lids as a prominent, new branding exercise.

According to a 2018 Golf Channel story, executive Lou King, then with Amana, brokered the deal where Amana paid pros $50 per tournament and some health insurance to wear the hats. Players such as Bob Goalby, Julius Boros and Charles Coody were the early signees. PGA Tour broadcast networks shied away from showing the logos during competition and really fought displaying the new-fangled branding in post-tournament trophy and interview settings. Still, the hats remain a throwback marvel and a marketing brainstorm focused on affluent golf fans.

"Those are the people who buy major appliances," King told The Palm Beach (Fla.) Post in 1999.

More than 50 years later the landscape has changed dramatically. According to veteran golf agent Barry Hyde, the financial pecking order for logoed golfers begins with the front of the hat and goes right down the torso to left chest, right chest, left sleeve and right sleeve. Add in a shirt collar or two, the golf bag, the cover of yardage books and back yolk of shirts and you have a golfer branded like a billboard on I-95. Then throw in the player’s caddie and you get a mirror affect during a Tour broadcast.

There is not a standard rate card for logo placement, though the front of the hat normally rules. Newbies on lesser tours probably get the least juice, followed up the dollar tree by highly touted potential stars, since it’s uncertain how many starts each group will receive. Perennial winners, major champions, and superstars are more assured spots. Golfers with big personalities who are comfortable in corporate outing settings and who have a strong social media presence can only add to the financial return. Agents, sponsors and players are particularly sensitive about revealing dollar amounts, but it is estimated that top-10 players can attract more than $1 million annually for front of cap placement, while top 30 get approximately $1 million and then down to the top 125 players, who can bring in $75,000-100,000 for that prime spot.

MegaCorp and Elliott, the manager for both Harman and Poston, won’t discuss dollar figures for their corporate relationship. But they will emphasize that there was a large dose of synchronicity in fostering the deals.

“The basis for both guys was to be able to play the equipment they’re comfortable with and to shoot the lowest scores,” Elliott said. “So, it was going to be a performance-based decision. We could have gone with another endemic brand to make more money, but both wanted to keep playing Titleist equipment. In the commercial market opportunity, Titleist allows us to sell the front of the headwear — the most branding — and have the Titleist name on the side of the hat.”

Even though Harman has reached a new level of exposure and is grinding through the FedEx Cup Playoffs, a spot on the calendar awaits come either later this fall or next spring. That’s when Harman is due to visit Wilmington for a headquarters visit.

The Claret Jug has been the centerpiece for years of memorable celebrations, and surely this will be another chapter in that story.