As Golf’s Best Gather at the Masters, Sponsors Await Big Pay Day


The 2013 Masters Golf Tournament—one of the few golf tourneys that the world outside of the golf community actually cares about—kicked off Thursday morning as brands watch helplessly, hoping and praying that one of thier golfers is the one pulling on the famed green jacket by weekend’s end. 

As Forbes points out, last year’s winner, Bubba Watson, wasn’t a big name outside of the golf world before the Masters got underway last year. Though by the end of the tournament, his main sponsor, Ping, had generated $14.2 million in media value, according to brand analyst and research firm Repucon. That’s triple what the next brand, TaylorMade, got out with at $4.5 million. 

The reason the numbers vary so much is because he Masters only allows four minutes of commercials each hour and limits the amount of branding on the course so the majority of brand exposure comes from the golfers themselves and whatever airtime they get. That means sponsors of the world’s top-ranked golfers—Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Justin Rose— along with such big names as Phil Mickelson (No. 9) and Watson (No. 14) will be enjoying the sight of their products far more than those who supply gear to Richard Sterne (No. 49). Unless, of course, Sterne pulls out the game of his life and ends up in or near the winner’s circle.[more]

With the stakes so high, it’s a sure bet that sponsor brands will have marketing teams waiting in the wings to promote special offers once the winner is realized. Two days after Watson’s win last year, Ping put 5,000 special-edition clubs on the market that copied Watson’s pink-shaft sticks, each selling for $430. That’s a nice $2.15 million in extra revenue. 

Woods, who is sponsored by Nike Golf, is playing well and is the favorite to win the Masters, which would be his fifth green jacket since he won his first back in 1997. As for Nike Golf, they’ve already got a head start on the Woods branding, garnering some serious media attention for an image it posted to its Facebook page late last month. Eating up some of his screen time is girlfriend Lindsay Vonn, who showed up at the course Thursday but wasn’t wearing any obviously branded item. Some marketer somewhere is surely kicking themselves at the lost opportunity.

In the ultimate one-two punch, Nike Golf signed on baby-faced phenom Rory McIlroy back in January, wooing him away from longtime equipment sponsor Titleist with a hefty multi-year contract worth a reported $200 million. Unfortunately, his game has suffered since; he actually walked off a tourney earlier this year in the second round when the ball wasn’t quite rolling his way, but McIlroy surely isn’t going to dump Nike after all the dough they paid him. Plus, they’re his big sponsor right now; a five-year deal he had with global luxury hotel company Jumeirah Group was completed in January and not re-signed.

Meanwhile, Rose, a great golfer but much less of a name, will be trying to get as much screen time as he can for TaylorMade (as well as clothing sponsor Ashworth, airline partner British Airways, insurance group Zurich, Adidas eyewear, Jumeirah (take that, McIlroy), Golf at Goodwood Golf Club, video game maker EA Sports and his management team, 4Sports & Entertainment). What, no toilet paper sponsor, Rose? 

As for Mickelson, the veteran will be looking to bring attention to equipment sponsor Callaway, Barclays,  Rolex, insurance firm KPMG (which generally gets a prominent spot on Mickelson’s hat), Exxon Mobil, Grayhawk Golf Club and Amgen/Pfizer. Fortunately for his sponsors, Mickelson is now a big enough name that he’ll get airtime whether he does well or not. However, if he gets close to wearing that green jacket for the third time, you can be sure there will be some very, very happy sponsors out there.