Golf’s surprising sponsorship battle: luxury targets men, electronics the women
At a glance, established golf sponsors share an unsurprising number of qualities; an air of exclusivity with wealthy customer bases to match their luxury products and prices. However, there is a surprising difference in the sectors tapping into the men’s and women’s pro scene.
When it comes to the main bodies and events*, luxury brands account for 3x the share of sponsors in the men’s game than women’s, whilst electronics, technology and media account for 3x the share in women’s compared to men!
Sports Retail brands are the top investors in the men’s game – accounting for 24% of sponsorship, partly through sub sectors including equipment. The global golf equipment market is expected to reach $9.6 million by 2023 (Allied Market Research, 2018) and brands like Titleist are gaining major exposure through shirt, sleeve, cap and club activations. In comparison, Sports Retail contributes only 8% in women’s golf – where Electronics, Technology & Media brands hold the highest portion at 26%.
In 2015, printing brand Ricoh announced the extension of their title sponsorship of the British Women’s Open – already one of the longest serving sponsors in women’s golf. 2018 was their ninth year as title sponsor and third renewal, made in a move said by President and CEO, Zenji Miura to, “bring us closer to customers and build relationships with the communities in which we work. In the world of sport as is in the world of business, both imagination and a passion for change are key to driving success.”
The appeal of golf to Luxury Goods brands is unsurprising considering their values and target markets. The sector is the second highest investor behind Sports Retail in the the men’s elite competitions contributing 21.8% of total investment, compared to just 6.8% in women’s.
One brand notably bucking that trend is Rolex who are particularly prevalent in both men’s and women’s golf, sponsoring governing bodies and majors in each. Despite holding an official sponsorship with the US PGA major at Bethpage Black 2019, Omega Watches doesn’t target the women’s game.
Men make up around 67% of the golfing population in Europe according to KPMG (2017). Sport England’s Active Lives Survey found that 3.7% of England’s total male population participate in golf.
Travel and Automotive brands are the third highest investor in the men’s game and second in women’s. Mercedes-Benz makes the most appearances in the men’s game whereas ANA Airlines plays the large role of being solo title sponsor to the women’s ANA Inspiration Major. Lexus is the only automotive brand to feature in both genders as one of four main sponsors of both the Men and Women’s U.S Opens.
Having the third highest impact in the women’s landscape are Professional and Financial Services brands, including Deloitte and American Express, official partners of the 2019 Women’s Open. Both have partnerships with the the USGA governing body and activate across men’s and women’s golf through this association. American Express is also a sponsor of the women’s Evian Championship, governed by the LPGA.
Luxury goods, electronics, sports equipment and travel are the
dominant sponsorship forces within both men’s and women’s golf.
Luxury goods and high-end brands across electronics, sports equipment and travel are the dominant forces within sponsorship of men’s and women’s golf. The success and continued renewal of sponsorships by brands such as Rolex and Nike is evidence of a positive return of investment and should reassure brands looking to invest, having been tried-and-tested by others. It is also indicative of available opportunities for brands looking to transform their image, perhaps in line with a strategic shift towards a high-end client base.
For those who haven’t been involved in professional golf sponsorship in the past, golf provides a rare opportunity to gain visibility alongside established brands and benefit through such an association. Because of this, brands could reap high rewards through just one sponsorship activation, rather than being present across all major tournaments.
Something also to note, is the current shift in focus to help golf move with the times and widen its appeal. In 2017, The Guardian reported on the decline in viewership and participation in the UK, explaining that golf must ‘attract a younger, more diverse audience.’ It was also encouraged to boost its accessibility and inclusivity to people of wider socioeconomic backgrounds. This opens new potential routes for brands to align themselves with golf’s drive for inclusivity and accessibility across the men’s and women’s games.
Whether it be a six-figure investment or grassroots activation, men’s and women’s golf is paying off for sponsors.