By Barry Janoff
December 20, 2014: Tiger Woods has been off the PGA Tour for much of 2014 and has not won a Major title since the 2008 U.S. Open. That, along with a sport that has seen a net decline in the number of golf courses close over the past eight years and a flatline in the number of mew participants, is seemingly taking its toll on marketing sponsorship.
The amount of money that companies will spend worldwide on golf sponsorship is expected to reach $1.65 billion in 2014, up 3.1% from 2013 but short of the 4.1% rise that was expected, according to marketing and sponsorship research firm IEG Research.
"Like other international properties, the uneven global economy continues to temper corporate interest in golf,” William Chipps, senior editor of the just released IEG (Golf) Sponsorship Report.
According to the National Golf Foundation, 400,000 people left golf in 2013, dropping the total participants under 25 million. There were 25.3 million golfers in the U.S. in 2012, which is down from 25.7 million in 2011 and 26.1 million in 2010, according to NGF.
Since 2004, almost 5 million people in the U.S. have left the game for a variety of reasons, and the number of core golfers is down almost 24%, according to Golf 20/20, which describes itself as "collaborative effort of many forces within the golf industry, from the associations and manufacturers to the course owners/operators and the media, focused on the game and its future."
Only 14 new golf courses opened in the U.S. in 2013 and close to 160 closed, the eighth consecutive year of that tread, also according to NGF.
Over the summer, Dick's Sporting Goods handed pink slips to all of the PGA professionals it employed in the golf sections of its more than 560 stores, about 500 people, according to industry analysts.
Golf sponsorship was up in 2011 ($1.44 billion) versus 2010 ($1.36 billion), up in 2012 ($1.51 billion) and up again in 2013 before dipping in 2014.
Despite these numbers, golf seems to be far from standing on its last legs.
The $1.65 billion in sponsorship spending puts it ahead of other sports.
By comparison, NFL sponsorship was $1.07 billion for 2013, MLB sponsorship in 2014 hit $695 million, NBA sponsorship was $679 million for the 2013-14 season and tennis was at $739 million worldwide this year., all according to IEG Research.
The top golfers also do pretty well in the endorsement field. Woods earns close to $60 million from endorsements, Phil Mickelson close to $50 million and Rory McIlroy about $20 million, according to industry analysts.
BMW is the most active sponsor of golf worldwide with an alliance in 27% of properties with a sponsor in the auto category, followed by Rolex (active in 26% of golf properties with a sponsor in the watch category), MasterCard (15%), Coca-Cola (15%), Anheuser-Busch (14%), Fila (14%), Daimler (13%), Bank of America (11%) and AT&T (9%).
The list changes when looking just at North America, where the leaders are MasterCard (active in 24% of golf properties with a sponsor in the financial services category), Coca-Cola (22%), Anheuser-Busch (21%), Bank of America (19%), AT&T (16%), Rolex (16%), Daimler (16%), Bacardi (14%), Foster's Brewing Group (12%) and FedEx (12%).
The most active categories sponsorship golf in North America are banking, beverages-alcohol, automotive, insurance, hotel and -resorts, media and publish, telecom, beverages non-alcohol and credit cards.
And Woods still has plenty of drawing power, despite his on-course struggles. He recently signed a four-year deal with Hero Corp., which manufactures motorcycles and scooters, valued at $8 million a year, according to industry analysts.
Among other activations, the India-based company took title sponsorship of Wood's World Challenge event, which was played in Orlando earlier this month.
“I believe Tiger becoming Hero's global public partner, he is going to add a huge amount of value to the brand Hero, which clearly is going global in its intent and with its product and the brand,” Hero CEO Pawan Munjal said during the media conference unveiling the alliance with Woods.
See the full IEG Research report here.
Graphics: IEG Research