The Rising Profile of Canadian Golf & Sponsor Opportunities
6 minute read
- Canada has seen an increase in notable golfers on both the PGA and LPGA tour giving Canadian brands a new opportunity.
- Sponsors of notable golfers must be aware of the swings in potential brand exposure as only a select number of golfers receive broadcast and media attention during tournaments.
- As golf continues to evolve, sponsors do have an opportunity for more interactive and customized activations at golf events
As the 99th PGA Championship concluded last Sunday, the final major of the PGA season, Canadian golf experienced another strong year. On both the male and female professional tours, Canadians such as Graham Delaet, Brook Henderson, and Adam Hadwin have established themselves as regulars. As Canada sees a rising number of touring professionals, Canadian brands have an opportunity to expand and cement their brand positioning in Canada and around the world through golf sponsorship. MKTG examines the evolution of golf’s brand in Canada and opportunities for sponsors.
The Rise of Golf in Canada
The Canadian Open, Canada’s national male professional tournament, was first played 113 years ago in 1904. It has since become the crown jewel event in Canadian golf attracting some of the world’s top professionals. The Canadian Open provides ample opportunities for sponsors to establish their brand amongst golf fans in Canada, where the current title sponsor, RBC, has been supporting the event since 2008.
In addition, Mike Weir’s prominence on the PGA Tour elevated interest in the sport. Mike Weir won fifteen professional tournaments, most notably, The Masters, which propelled golf in Canada, resulting in the Mike Weir effect. About a decade after Weir’s win, an influx of Canadian golfers such as Adam Hadwin and Nick Taylor appeared on the PGA Tour. With more young Canadian golf professionals establishing themselves, brands are now presented with intriguing sponsorship opportunities to engage with Canadians through a platform with rising interest.
Current Canadian Sponsor Activity
Golf offers a differentiated sponsorship landscape in Canada compared to other sports. Golf Canada, the governing body, has a number of sponsors, such as RBC, Canadian Pacific Railway, and the Canadian Government. The partnerships between these brands and Golf Canada greatly aid in the development of Canadian golfers. For example, the partnership between Golf Canada and RBC, the title sponsor of the RBC Canadian Open, allows for RBC to offer more sponsor exemptions to aspiring young Canadian amateurs and professionals.
While the RBC Canadian Open has been established as a prominent event in the PGA calendar, there are little other Canadian events that attract significant attention. This has led brands to look to Canadian broadcasts of other events to associate with golf. This past April during The Masters, Mercedes-Benz was a sponsor of TSN’s coverage of the tournament. This not only provided Mercedes-Benz with broadcast time but also a presence on TSN’s digital platforms covering the event as well.
Partnerships between brands and individual golfers are very common. Often, the strength of a player’s performance will dictate the number and/or exclusivity of sponsors. For example, Brooke Henderson, currently Canada’s top female professional golfer, has eleven sponsorship deals ranging from banking, car and performance gear. Sponsorships in golf offer brands unique opportunities that can help further solidify their presence in the golf demographic.
What Sponsors Stand to Gain
International awareness: Golf is a truly global game as 41 different nations participated in the golf event at the 2016 Olympic Games. Canadian professional golfers actively compete around the world, most notably on the PGA and LPGA tours, but also on various European Tours, Asian Tours, and Latin-American Tours. As more Canadians look internationally to establish themselves as touring golf professionals, brands have an intriguing opportunity to expand their brand presence internationally.
Opportunity for year-round exposure: While golf in Canada is not played year round, Canada’s professional golfers compete all year as many of the game’s major tours (PGA, LPGA, European Tours, Asian Tours and Latin-American Tours) will have events beginning in January and finishing in early December. With year-round events, brands that engage in golf partnerships are able to remain in market longer than other properties.
Become a driver of the game in Canada: Despite Canada having incredible growth, Canada is not a major golf influence on a global scale, leaving significant room for improvement and an opportunity for a corporate sponsor to drive development in Canada. A corporate sponsor has the opportunity to break the boundaries associated with golf, such as the exclusive nature and high costs, which would allow for more young Canadians to play golf, raising the profile of the game.
A shift in golf culture will allow for more brand experience: While there is a common stereotype about the atmosphere of golf events, that perception is slowly changing. Some tournaments are shifting away from a formal feel toward an atmosphere more social, giving brands new opportunities to interact with fans to attract the millennial audience. The Waste Management Phoenix Open is the most notable tournament that has adopted this new feel, as the Par-3 16th hole hosts 16,000 screaming fans and is regarded as the “Most exciting hole on the PGA Tour”. In recent years, sponsors have utilized the unique atmosphere at the 16th hole to promote their brand. For example, Andrew Johnson, who currently has a partnership with Arby’s, threw foam curly fries, branded with the Arby’s logo to spectators.
As golf in Canada continues to evolve, sponsors remain integral to the growth of the sport. Despite Canada’s rise in prominence, there are still numerous opportunities for corporate sponsors to develop golf in Canada, especially among the younger generation. Due to the current success Canadian golf professionals on the male and female tours, Canada should expect an influx of the younger generation to pursue a professional golf career, pushing Canadian golf to new heights and presenting brands with new sponsorship opportunities.