Jul
24
2009
Are Corporate Sponsorships Ruining Golf?
By Stephanie Wei under General

Call me a tree-hugging socialist hippie, but I think this is an interesting controversial topic to discuss. Are individual corporate sponsorships hurting golf? Yes, to a degree. Check out the PGA players — their clothes and bags are splattered with logos. It’s hard to say no to throwing a company’s emblem on your shirt, hat or bag when there’s a fat paycheck waved in your face.

The downside is that a lot of the players’ individuality is lost amidst the money and the graffiti logos. Perhaps if a brand isn’t a good fit for their “personal” brand, they should seek other options. In fact, it’d be in their best interest to be more selective and stand apart. I know the reality is that they make money from personal endorsements and not all players have their pick of the litter. But if they’re not a top-tier player, they’re probably not getting paid that much money (if any) to wear or play something. So what’s the difference? It seems like it’d be liberating to choose your own equipment rather than be under contract with a few companies.

Everyone looks like they’ve walked out of a [insert: generic large corporation] factory, unless your name is John Daly or Ian Poulter. Sure, there are guys like Anthony Kim, Adam Scott and Camilo Villegas who stand out and we get a taste of their personality (or lack thereof) — whether you agree with their fashion sensibilities or not. And it doesn’t mean you have to look like a poseur or be outlandish. There are classic players that have distinct styles, like Fred Couples, Davis Love III, Greg Norman and Seve Ballesteros. Even if it’s “boring,” their character still shines through.

The players are using a brand so they’re selling it too. It’s a marketing competition for equipment companies. The point is to win the Darrell Survey reports (the company takes a survey of every piece of equipment in the players’ bags at every tournament). TaylorMade is the top ranked driver on Tour (read: they pay the most guys) and it’s probably not a coincidence it’s the best-selling wood on the consumer market. (I love and play their woods.) The lesson is it pays to pay – what the players use often dictates or influences what people buy. I find it a little irrational, though. Oh, Stewart Cink plays NIKE and he won the British Open so I should buy NIKE clubs! What about finding a brand that fits your game and swing the best? Not to mention who else noticed Lee Westwood’s shirts? I was confused whether he was a golfer or a NASCAR driver. When did quantity become more important than quality?

To clarify, this isn’t an attack on capitalism. There needs to be some incentive for players to sport a brand. But it becomes a problem when people are only paying attention to what shoes the players are wearing or what driver they are using. Or focusing on just one athlete who monopolizes has every commercial deal on this planet. That’s when athletes become mere vehicles for corporate advertising. It’s absurd.

The reality is everything revolves around money these days. To the extent that it’s taking away from the sanctity of golf. What happened to playing just for the love of the friggin’ game? I guess I’m just naive.

Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.