Exact Sciences tees up annual Cologuard golf match with pros, patients and celebrities

Exact Sciences Cologuard Classic PGA golf tournament image
Exact Sciences' annual Cologuard Classic PGA tournament ends with a ceremonial 18th hole walk with survivors, patients and caregivers. (Cologuard Classic)

It’s a fun weekend of sun and golf in Arizona on the PGA Tour Champions for Exact Sciences. But there’s a bigger goal behind its title sponsorship of the Cologuard Classic tournament.

From the pro golfers to the celebrities to the colon cancer survivors and family who attended the weekend, the message was clear: Get screened for colorectal cancer. Professional golfer and Cologuard ambassador Jerry Kelly was on hand, playing and promoting that message at the tournament.

Exact Sciences, which markets the Cologuard at-home colon cancer screening kits, recently announced a five-year extension of its title sponsorship through 2025. The Cologuard test is FDA approved for people ages 45 to 85. Marketing efforts like the golf sponsorship, along with a significant Cologuard consumer ad campaign that includes national TV commercials, has driven use of the test from under one million in 2017 (930,000) to more than 1.7 million in 2019. The company expects more than two million to be sold in 2020.

RELATED: Exact Sciences starts to see payoff from Pfizer marketing tie-up

Kevin Conroy, CEO of Exact Sciences, said the partnership has proven effective, noting that the televised tournament reliably results in specific Google search spikes for the test.

“One of the hard things about screening is that it’s focused on people who are healthy. We live in a world where people go to the doctor when they’re sick. This is about taking control of your own health, and it’s harder to engage people, so the way we’re committed to doing this is going onto television and digital and social channels to educate people,” he said. “People are busy—colon cancer screening is not the first thing you think about in the morning.”

Along with the pro golf legends such as Fred Couples and Mark O’Meara, and celebrity players such as star baseball pitcher Roger Clemens and racing driver Rusty Wallace, 50 colon cancer patients and survivors were in attendance.

RELATED: Exact Sciences, Mayo Clinic launch 150,000-strong Cologuard study

Exact Sciences began sponsoring the tour in 2017 after Conroy and Kelly met while traveling on an airplane. The two began talking and realized that colon cancer had touched their lives through the diagnoses of close friends and family members. This year, a close friend of Kelly's from college who has stage four colon cancer was at the tournament to support his friend and the cause.

Exact Sciences is in the middle of a three-year marketing deal with Pfizer, with both companies committed to spending more than $70 million each to market and promote Cologuard. Pfizer is also lending its sales force and reach into provider networks and health systems through the end of 2021.