Golf is a complicated stakeholder landscape. Explaining to brands which events are owned by which organisation and how some players can occasionally play in European Tour events without necessarily holding a card, can put them off before a ball has been struck.
In crises, change is often a necessity. In January 2020, the European Tour was due to host 34 events across five continents. With a season in tatters, the UK Swing was born, presenting brands and golfers alike a chance for exposure they wouldn’t previously have had.Between July and August, some 140+ golfers have competed over six events across the breadth of the UK. A collective prize pot in excess of £6m has been up for grabs, with more than 100 hours of live coverage available to viewers on Sky Sports Golf.
Despite the absence of spectators, the prevailing industry sentiment has been overwhelmingly positive.Whilst high profile Ryder Cup stars like Rahm, Rose and Poulter have remained in the USA – some of the lesser-known names like Horsfield and Langasque – and subsequently their sponsors – have benefitted from increased exposure and attention.Despite the name suggesting a continental presence, the European Tour hosts events worldwide, so sponsorship in theory appeals to brands who have customers globally. The UK Swing however has demonstrated that localised sponsorships can provide value for money solutions for sponsors who can geo-target their audiences.
While sponsoring a one-off event is not new, brands who have a specific focus can benefit hugely from the number of properties in golf currently available on a local, targeted basis. What’s more, the sponsorship fees are a whole lot more attractive now than they were this time last year!
Take one of our clients, Loch Lomond Whiskies, as an example. At the turn of the year, the distiller was a partner of The Open and Women’s British Open’s, giving exposure to the Scottish brand for two summer spikes. We helped broker an agreement for Loch Lomond Whiskies to sponsor the UK Swing which presented an opportunity to give even greater long-term relevance to their target audiences in a key market. This was particularly important this year, given the cancellation of the marquee men’s Major.
If I was in the corridors of power at European Tour I would ensure that the UK Swing remains each year. One only needs to see the popularity of the Desert Swing or lesser realised Links swing to see proof of the concept in hosting a regional mini-series.Not only would this garner greater local media and fan attention it will encourage local sponsors to invest and create a buzz while the golf circus rolls into town. Even more so when spectators are able to return on course.
So while all eyes will be on the power hitters of McIlroy, DeChambeau and Johnson this weekend in the States, the smart view in the UK will be on our iconic Sutton Coldfield course for the final event of a series that I hope is here to stay – a testament to The European Tour.