Over or Under Par? The Sponsorship of Caddies
5 Minute Read
• PGA Tour caddies can provide sponsors with a valuable asset to demonstrate their authenticity in golf.
• Brands can leverage caddies in a number of ways including through sponsorship of the Association of Professional Tour Caddies.
• Caddies have previously fought for their share of caddie bib sponsorship revenue in a likely ongoing issue.
One of golf’s most prestigious tournaments, The Masters, is set to be held next week. Fans will be tuning in to see golf’s biggest stars compete for the right to wear the green jacket. Much of the attention will be focused on the golfers, however often overlooked is the caddie who is crucial to the golfer’s success. A caddie’s job can be part-coach, part-consultant, and part-teammate, all of which combine to help the golfer perform to their optimal level.
The Sponsorship Appeal of Caddies
Beyond on-course signage and the golfers themselves, caddies provide an extra asset that can be leveraged by sponsors for both branding and storytelling purposes:
Prominent broadcast exposure- For notable golfers such as Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth, broadcasters will show almost all their shots during a round. For many of these shots, the caddie will be visible before or after the shot. This prominent screen time creates a valuable asset for sponsors looking to have their brand featured throughout the round.
Demonstrate authenticity in golf- For brands that are looking to fully invest in golf, sponsoring a caddie can demonstrate a deeper level of commitment. Brands that look to fully invest in an athlete can look to their larger team to show their full support. For example, during American Pharoah’s Triple Crown win at the Belmont Stakes, in addition to the jockey, the rest of the team were seen wearing Monster Energy apparel. The same can be true for a sponsor looking to invest in golf through caddie sponsorship.
Offer sponsors a chance for brand dominance- For an apparel brand that sponsors a golfer, the caddie can provide the opportunity to create a clean, unified look to the sponsorship. Sponsors for golfers such as Jordan Spieth (Under Armour), Tiger Woods (Nike), and Sergio Garcia (Adidas) all have their caddies outfitted in their sponsor’s apparel as well.
How Brands Leverage Caddies
Sponsors have recognized the value a caddie can provide to their brand and have found multiple ways to leverage caddies in their activations.
As a personality- Steve Williams was famous as the caddie for Tiger Woods from 1999-2011, during some of Woods’ most successful years. Through the association with Tiger Woods, Steve Williams became a recognizable figure in the golf world. In addition to his caddying career, Williams was also known to participate in Speedway Racing in his home country of New Zealand. Motor Oil company Valvoline entered into a sponsorship with Williams who would feature the company logo on the sleeves of his shirt so not to be covered by the caddie bib. During Woods’ victory at the 2006 Buick Open, Williams took off his bib after Woods hit his final putt to ensure that the Valvoline logo would be in prominent view for photographers. Valvoline was able to use Williams who was also noted for his race car driving in New Zealand and his prominent on screen time with Woods.
Through Sponsorship of the APTC- In 2013 the Association of Professional Tour Caddies (APTC) was formed, which now currently represent over 125 caddies. The ATPC offers brands sponsorship through branded apparel during tournaments, access to member’s social media platforms, and promotional appearances from caddies. Kingmade Beef Jerky and Kentwool socks are two current sponsors of the APTC. Kingmade Beef Jerky is available to purchase through the website of the APTC and is mentioned on a number of the caddies Twitter feeds. Kentwool Socks also promotes the sponsorship through their website. They communicate that over 100 caddies are wearing their socks every week, translating to 50 million steps. Kentwool demonstrates the comfort of their socks by promoting the fact that it is the trusted brand of caddies, whose job involves a significant amount of walking.
Leveraging the Caddie Thematic in Activations- During the HSBC Championships and HSBC Women’s Championship, the HSBC Caddie of the Year is awarded. The award is given to the year’s most outstanding caddie as voted by the players. The most recent award has gone to Jordan Spieth’s caddie, Michael Greller. HSBC created the award as a way to recognize what they call “golf’s unsung heroes”, HSBC feels that caddies are critical in a golfer’s success and it is important to appreciate that. Financial institutions can borrow many themes from the role of the caddie including, counsel, stability, and trust, Through HSBC Caddie of the Year award they can communicate those themes. This is also the approach MetLife has taken in one of their spots that associated the role of the caddie to MetLife’s financial approach.
Limitations of Caddie Sponsorship
While caddies can offer a unique opportunity to a sponsor, there are natural drawbacks to this type of deal.
Limited Relevance- Caddies do not have the same marketing power as the golfers, which means they may not be relevant to the casual golf fan. As a result of this, caddie sponsorship is a niche marketing opportunity for brands looking to target the avid golf fan.
Opportunity for Clutter- With caddie sponsorship being a niche opportunity, there is likely only room for a select number of brands to operate in this space before it would feel too cluttered. Only brands that can demonstrate an authentic connection should look to caddie sponsorship.
Limited Caddies to Sponsor- The amount of caddies with name recognition is very limited. Only a few caddies to the world’s top golfers are recognizable, as a result of this the number of caddies that can provide benefits to a sponsor is low.
Last year, a number of caddies recognized the value they provided as a sponsorsable asset through their tournament bibs. The caddies felt that through wearing the bibs they should be compensated through a share of the sponsorship dollars. Eventually, 168 caddies gathered to file a lawsuit against the PGA Tour on having to wear a sponsored bib without receiving any sort of compensation. It is well documented the value a caddie can provide to a sponsor which does bring up the question as to who owns the right to advertise on a caddie? Is it the PGA Tour who gives the caddies the opportunity to earn a living as a caddie? Or is it the caddie who is the one who has to wear the bib? With the value of the caddie sponsorship recognized as a major issue, it is likely that this is a topic that will continue to be discussed in the future.