By Barry Janoff
March 5, 2016: In a concerted effort to build, expand and enhance the sport, PGA Tour and the Ladies Professional Golf Assn. said they have "formalized their longstanding cooperative relationship by entering into a long-term, written strategic alliance agreement designed to further promote the growth of golf."
According to both parties, the partnership would include schedule coordination, joint marketing programs, domestic TV representation, digital media and "exploring the potential development of joint events."
The move comes as golf prepares to return to the Olympics for the first time since 1904, with men's and women's competitions scheduled for the upcoming Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro.
According to Tim Finchem, commissioner for the PGA Tour, “From our collaboration in bringing golf back as an Olympic sport as joint members of the International Golf Federation to our cooperation in helping to grow the game of golf as part of the World Golf Foundation, our two organizations have had a long history of working together for the common good of our sport."
Both organizations said that the alliance "strengthens their relationship and the potential benefits of working together in these various areas (which) are attractive for the overall growth of the sport."
However, they stressed that the partnership does not include any "formal financial investment or transfer of ownership or control and that the PGA Tour and LGPA would remain separate and independent organizations."
According to Mike Whan, LPGA commissioner, “We believe the PGA Tour has significant expertise in the areas that we will focus on together and working more closely with them carries with it the very real potential of positively impacting our members, our tournaments, and our ability to grow our sport around the world. We look forward to working with the PGA Tour team to deliver a positive impact for our sport.”
The men's side has had to contend without the regular presence of Tiger Woods, who for the past several years has been battling a series of injuries. Marketers, fans and TV viewers have supported golf's young guns, including Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler and Jason Day.
On the women's side, the top players include Lydia Ko, Inbee Park, Lexi Thompson and Stacy Lewis.
Sponsorship spend in golf reached a record $1.7 billion in 2015. The figure is up 4.8% from $1.65 billion in 2014, $1.6 billion in 2013, $1.51 billion in 2012, $1.4 billion in 2011 and up from $1.36 billion in 2010, according to the IEG Sponsorship Report from sponsorship and consulting firm IEG, Chicago.
By comparison, NFL sponsorship in 2015 was $1.2 billion and worldwide sponsorship revenue on motor sports topped $5.3 billion, per IEG.
Automakers are the most active category sponsoring golf, with 27% of of golf-related properties having a sponsor in the auto segment. Other top categories include banking, beverages-alcohol, insurance, hotel and resorts, media and publishing, telecom, beverages-non-alcohol and credit cards.
BMW is the most active sponsor, associated with 19% of golf-related properties, according to IEG.
The car maker was followed by Rolex (15%), Anheuser-Busch (14%), Emirates (14%), MasterCard (12%), Coca-Cola (11%), Daimler (10%), Fila (8%), AT&T (6%) and Bacardi (6%).
"(This has) the very real potential of positively impacting our members, our tournaments, and our ability to grow our sport around the world."
Woods, despite injuries and back surgery, earned close to $50 million from endorsements in 2015, Phil Mickelson some $48 million, McIlroy about $32 million and Spieth $11 million, according to industry analysts.
Spieth's deals include Under Armour, Coca-Cola (pictured), AT&T, Rolex, NetJets and Titleist.
McIlroy's deals include Nike, with whom he signed a $200 million pact in 2013, EA Sports, Bose and Omega.
On the women's side, among the top-ranked LPGA golfers, Inbee Park has earned more than $2.4 million on the tour to date, Lydia Ko more than $2.3 million and Stacy Lewis $1.7 million in earnings.
Participation in golf experienced a decline several years ago due to the economy, but has since found more solid footing. Golf participation in 2014 "remained equal to the previous 12 months, marking the third consecutive year that roughly 25 million people played at least one round of golf," according to the National Golf Foundation. Numbers for 2015 are still being crunched.
No Tiger, No Problem: Golf Sponsorship Hits Record $1.7B
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