By now, the world has heard the story of Bubba Watson. After winning the 2012 Masters in dramatic fashion, Bubba Watson turned the golf world upside-down. Watson has been on the cover of Sports Illustrated (a rarity for someone not named Tiger or Phil these days), made an appearance on the Late Show with David Letterman and led the public to go buy pink Ping drivers in droves.
PGA Tour’s 2 Biggest Issues
Watson’ charm and average guy personality has captured America’s hearts and is golf’s new favorite American on the PGA Tour. But with the game starting to be dominated by promising young foreigners (Rory McIlroy, Lee Westwood and Luke Donald to name a few), Bubba can’t be the sole American to carry the torch for golf in the U.S.
The PGA Tour has also faced the challenging task of trying to reach a younger audience. Gone are the days of golf being an exclusive sport for the old wealthy, white male. Golf is now available to the masses and much has been done to grow the game at a grassroots level. However, according to ESPN Sports Business reporter, Kristi Dosh, “The number of junior golfers has fallen from 3.8 million in 2005 to 2.5 million” (check out Kristi’s article detailing how the lack of enthusiasm for golf among youth and how Watson can change that here).
In order to survive in a sports landscape that is saturated with more “exciting” sports to watch, the PGA tour needs to start catering to the next generation of golfers. The tour has no reason not to capitalize on the millions of sponsorship dollars from brands that appeal to young adults and teens. And for the financial vitality of the league, they flat out need young brands and golfers to buy into the game of golf.
The Golf Boys
So how does the PGA Tour revitalize the brand? Look no further than Hunter Mahan, Bubba Watson, Ben Crane and Rickie Fowler: the quartet that call themselves the Golf Boys. Don’t know who the Golf Boys are? Watch their music video to find out:
Hunter Mahan has won five PGA Tour events and was a captain’s pick for the 2007 President’s Cup. Although a major tournament title has eluded Mahan in the past, he’s no stranger to being in the hunt on Sunday during a major as he has finished in the top ten of all but one (the PGA Championship in which his best finish is T16 – still not too shabby).
Mahan has a bevy of solid endorsements including Ping and Under Armour. Under Armour is one of the top brands that hold tremendous klout with America’s youth. Mahan can really carve out a niche of being associated with a giant brand, much like Tiger with Nike and Rickie Fowler with Puma (as demonstrated below).
UA has just entered the golf realm and with the success of Mahan in the future, Under Armour can begin to become a major force in the highly competitive golf marketplace. Golfers are extremely loyal to brands and are among the best consumers in terms of purchasing power and frequency. Again, all things that inevitably filter back up to the corporate world of the PGA Tour.
Even though fellow American Keegan Bradley won last year’s PGA Championship, Bradley has yet to amount to the star power that Watson is capable of. Bubba is a marketer’s dream due to his average joe persona, appeal to the weekend-hacker and good looks.From his unique, but fittingly accurate name to his signature hair, sponsors have plenty of fodder to make him America’s next big endorser.
Despite the fact that this year’s Masters had the lowest ratings since 2004 (due to great weather across the country and Easter Sunday), he will no doubt bring brands into the golf game that might not have even thought of aligning themselves with a golfer, therefore diversifying the Tour’s portfolio. Another thing that brands appreciate is autenticity, which Bubba freely displayed when he embraced his mother on the 18th, sobbing after the win and his humility through his press conference.
Although Ben Crane (aka the brain child of the Golf Boys) has 4 wins on the PGA Tour with his most recent coming in during October 2011, you may not be familiar with him on the course. But people in sports in social media know him all too well as he is known for making videos that go viral in an instant.
The BenCraneGolf channel on YouTube has almost 5,000 subscribers and over 7 million views making him one of the more popular athletes on YouTube. Crane is very social media (particularly on YouTube) adept and shows his fans behind the scenes videos of life on the PGA Tour. Whether that be entering Augusta National or meeting the San Diego State Women’s golf team in the airport or trying his hand at gymnastics, Ben Crane is one funny dude.
Brands like Farmers Insurance have even sponsored some of his videos and the Golf Boys music video, which is an incredibly unique way to break through the clutter that is sponsorship in golf. The PGA Tour needs to capture his humor as he can relate to the masses.
Rickie Fowler is the essence of a promising young American golfer. The 2010 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year is known for his bright orange Sunday outfit, dashingly good looks and popularizing the flat bill on the golf course. Rickie is a star in the making that has the ladies wanting to be with him, guys wishing the could pull off his bold style.
Fowler is one of the favorites among young boys in golf as well. I’ll never forget when I was a beverage cart driver at a country club in Minnesota, I waited on a group of 12 year old boys, each of them wearing a signature Puma Rickie Fowler flat bill, all in a different color. Talk about a brand’s dream.
Along with the hip brand of Puma, Fowler has also teamed up with Red Bull, another trendy brand that is making it’s way into the golf space (also endorses young female phenom, Lexi Thompson). This partnership between Rickie and Red Bull have the power to make golf cool with young people; something that the PGA Tour’s strategy needs to have as a focal point in the future. Red Bull is no stranger to creating buzz (especially with Fowler) which is an area in which the Tour is lacking.
Social Media and the Golf Boys
Last year, the PGA Tour decided to run a new advertising campaign called New Breed vs. The Establishment in an effort to lead the golf fan to “pick a side” or choose whether to root for older, more established golfers or the up-and-coming young golfers on tour. While this campaign was somewhat effective in driving viewership which was up 7% over 2010, it failed miserably in the social media realm. The TV campaign was used sparingly over social media – a traditionally younger demographic medium. For example, the clip on YouTube has only garnered 5,700 views. Compare that with the over 4 million views of the Golf Boys “Oh Oh Oh” music video and you can see how effective their campaign really was. That’s why the Tour needs to embrace the Golf Boys and feature them in some of their messaging over social media. Clearly these guys are social media gold and have the ability to convert the non-golf fan to tune in.
The Tour needs to tap into the Golf Boys following over Twitter as well. The PGA Tour has a meager 192,000 followers, which is pretty terrible in comparison to other professional league handles. The Golf Boys have a combined following that totals over 1 million followers. The Tour could really expand their social media presence even by using the Golf Boys in one campaign and would immediately grow their digital presence.
Attention PGA Tour: Revitalization Needed
Personalities like those of the Golf Boys are exactly what the PGA Tour needs to revitalize their brand. Golfers have long been tough to nuts to crack in terms of showing their personalities to the public. This in turn makes the Tour suffer as brands are less likely to align themselves with a closed-off brand.
The Golf Boys are the perfect combination of charm, humor, good looks, marketing power and social networking prowness that the PGA Tour can no longer ignore and need to revitalize the stagnant brand. This tight knot group of friends (did you see all of them embrace Bubba on the 10th hole after the Masters win?) can do wonders for the PGA Tour. The question is if the Tour will utilize these guys to freshen up the PGA Tour’s image.
What do you think the PGA Tour should do to embrace the Golf Boys and include them in their marketing campaigns? Do you see any other ways the PGA Tour can revitalize their brand? Tweet us or leave your comments below!