This Thursday, the finest golfers on the planet will begin their quest to win the prestigious green jacket at arguably the greatest annual sporting spectacle. The Masters is a unique event that takes place in the breath-taking surroundings of Augusta National; one of the most exclusive, well respected and finely manicured courses in the world. A place steeped in history that has seen some of the most famous moments in golf, such as Tiger’s chip in 2005 (a moment I am sure the Nike marketing team enjoyed as much as Woods himself) and Jack Nicklaus winning his 18th and final Major at the age of 46.
The 2013 Masters will be no different to previous years as the players battle it out for the $1.5 million first prize. However, this prize money pales into insignificance in relation to the lucrative personal commercial partnerships available to the modern golfer – Rory McIlroy has a reported $20 million a year deal with Nike.
This is one aspect of golf that is particularly noticeable from a marketeer’s perspective, and is recognisable through the sheer number of different logos on show throughout a tournament; it makes golf a sponsorship quirk in relation to other sports. No stone gets left unturned by the current breed of golfer as caps, sleeves, collars, bags, balls, sunglasses and watches are plastered in different brands and logos. This results in a large amount of brand clutter on the golf course, and is unlikely to generate much cut through for the majority of brands.
Golf is also a fairly unusual commercial entity in the fact that brands tend to favour individual endorsements in golf rather than tournament sponsorship. Whilst the Masters lists just three tournament sponsors in total (IBM, AT&T and Exxon Mobil) on its website, leading contenders Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter both have well over ten personal sponsors each. This is partly down to the traditional nature of golf and the fact that the majority of golfing rights holders are not as commercially evolved as other sports. In contrast, leading golfers are attractive to brands and this is exploited to their individual commercial advantage.
Personal endorsements can be very high risk as they rely so heavily on performance, especially in a sport like golf where form can change from week to week. Although, the fact is that golf is a truly individual sport in both participation and commercialism….
And anyway, if your brand is lucky enough to be on the winner’s polo shirt at the Masters this weekend you are unlikely to see it from beneath the coveted green jacket.
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