Golfers, like NASCAR drivers, are walking billboards for brands and sponsors.
The golf industry is particularly interesting for those interested in representation for a variety of reasons. For example, golfers have the opportunity of playing for 52 weeks a year (which provides the opportunity to win a lot of money for both player and agent), the multiple sponsorship opportunities on golf apparel, and not to mention traveling to tropical locations and playing on some of the world’s most beautiful courses.
Being a golf agent is also unique compared to many of the other professional sports in terms of requirements of becoming an agent. In the NFL, for example, one needs a professional degree of some sort (JD, Master’s, etc.) and to pass an exam issued by the NFL Players’ Association (NFLPA). In the MLB, one needs to have a client on a 40-man roster of a MLB club in order to be certified. For golf, on the other hand, if a player has his PGA Tour or has her LPGA Tour card, he or she needs to call the Tour office and inform them that someone is representing them. Although it sounds simple, finding these Tour-caliber players is not as simple as it seems.
While pursuing my Master’s of Sports Industry Management from Georgetown University, I had the opportunity to interview then-Founder of Icon Sports Management, RJ Nemer. Since then, Icon has been acquired by IMG and Nemer is now the Senior Vice President of Golf at IMG.
When asked how he signed his first client, he told me that he was sitting in the lobby of a hotel at a tournament site when he struck up a conversation with someone who knew a golfer looking for representation. After an introduction, the rest is history and Nemer had his first client (who is still represented by him today).
What truly fascinates me about golf representation is the branding opportunity for each player. While not as obvious as NASCAR branding, golfers are essentially walking advertisements for brands.
When Jordan Spieth won the Masters in 2015, it was at a pivotal time for Under Amour’s golf vertical. At any given time during that tournament, there were 16 Under Armour logo’s that could be seen on Spieth, from the logos on his hat down to the UA logo on his back pocket.
For brands looking to get into the sports marketing space, the opportunity with golfer’s is unique. While most companies currently partnering with golfers are luxury companies (Audemars, Piguet, Mercedes, etc.) other brands are looking to venture into the space given the influx of young, marketable talent (see Natty Light and Smylie Kaufman).
While golf has commonly been thought of as an old man’s game, these young players are making the sport more exciting and more Millenials are paying attention now than ever before. Whether it is envying Speith, Kaufman, Rickie Fowler and Justin Thomas’ spring break escapades, or hitting the links themselves, brands can take advantage of this opportunity to get into the game.
As the unofficial start to summer kicks off next weekend (Memorial Day), more and more people will be hitting the course for golf outings. With golf growing in popularity, the business of golf is something that should be at the forefront for those interested in #sportsbiz and #sportspon. Next time you tune into a PGA event or even play a casual round of golf, consider all the potential sports marketing opportunities as well as what goes into representing these athletes, while keeping in mind the difficulty of the game.
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