Sunday, 25th September, 2016

The Ryder Cup conundrum?

Story published at 10:00, Wednesday, September 10th, 2014

John Collard with Paul McGinley

John Collard with Paul McGinley

By John Collard, CEO of Sports Impact, the sports marketing agency which has several market-leading golf brands as clients.

With due respect to the Major Championships, the biggest golfing event on the planet is about to thrust golf centre stage once again.

The Ryder Cup has often been referred to as the third most viewed sporting event in the world,next to the FIFA World Cup and the summer Olympic Games.  Global TV viewing figures for the biennial event support this contention, havingrisen inexorably since the day in 1983 that the legendary Seve Ballesteros compelled his team-mates to see a one point defeat at Palm Beach Gardens as theturning point in Europe’s fortunes.

Every golfer can recount priceless memories of subsequent contests that have served to elevate the global status of the match-play event first contested nearly 90 years ago. The ‘Miracle at Medinah’ two years ago also saw the event gain a unique standing in the eyes of all sports fans, as it built on a series of close finishes that left the outcome tantalisingly in the balance through to the last putt.  It was most probably the most exciting sporting spectacle of the last decade as Europe, seemingly down and out, bounced back in the singles to retain the Cup.

The three days of competition at Gleneagles promises to be yet another ‘made for TV’ close encounter brimming with unpredictable results. And it will be viewed by possibly the largest audience to ever watch a golf event.

The contest between Team USA and players drawn from several European nations will be broadcast to more than 180 countries across the world to an estimated audience exceeding two billion people. It will be the first European-based golf event to be televised live in its entirety across the United States. The Golf Channel will show live coverage for the first time and reach more than 120 million homes in 83 countries. Online streaming will be available via NBC Sports and Golf Live Extra.

Sky Sports is devoting a total of 330 hours to the event, including 36 hours live coverage, and launching a dedicated channel available to viewers without existing subscriptions. BBC Sport, which attracted 3.8m viewers in 2012, will again feature TV highlights alongside its live radio broadcasts.

An average crowd of 45,000 spectators from no fewer than 75 countries will be descending on the Perthshire course each day, including many golf fans from as far as Canada, Australia, China and Argentina.

The level of media attention reflects the huge public interest. More than 1,500 journalists, photographers and broadcasters are set to report the event and exposure will rise steeply from the moment Paul McGinley announces his team from the Wentworth Club on 2 September.

By any marketing measurement, the event is world-class and the envy of many other sports.

But, if The Ryder Cup is such a great advertisement for the game and sparks so much interest among golfers and non-golfers alike, why are so many people on both sides of the Atlantic either no longer playing regularly or not looking to take it up?

The conclusion must be drawn that the golf industry is not making the most of what should be its jewel in the crown.

Is this because it just comes around every two years and only occurs in Europe once every four years? Or, is it because it’s such a ‘neutral’ event in terms of branding, since only official Ryder Cup logos are exposed during the action with players and caddies all wearing the same clothing or carrying the same bags?

Can it be that the unusual team ethos surrounding the event dampens the commercial instincts of the leading brands; or can they, as well as their retail partners, exhibit more invention in promoting the game and its equipment or apparel around the time of the matches?

Given that the 40th Ryder Cup is sure to prove another highlight of the sporting calendar and project the perfect blend of skill, sportsmanship and camaraderie associated with the game, perhaps it’s time for everyone in the golf industry to look at how more can be made of this great event.

Sports Impact

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  • Old Pro

    I was a Club Pro for nearly 40 years and when the Ryder Cup used to be on terrestrial TV it used to inspire a huge number of people to take the game up.  It was always noticeable that despite it being at the wrong end of the Golf season there was always a significant uptake of new players in the weeks and months afterwards. 

    Whilst it may well now be seen by a huge number of golfing fans (mostly existing players) on Satellite TV it no longer gets seen by the 95% of the public who do not play golf.  The funds that are accrued by the massive media circus that follows the event should find their way back to PGA members as they are the ‘owners’ of that association (which is a 50% shareholder in the event) but I have yet to find one that has said he/she sees a realisable benefit from the event other than many conversations with their existing customer base during and after the event.  

    I believe golf is missing a massive opportunity here to get the game’s flagship and most exciting event in front of its future customers.  It really doesn’t surprise me that despite improvements in technology making the game easier to take up, the reality is that not enough people get to see what a great game it is.

    I would urge the various officials who control these decisions to either forgo the income offered by such as SKY TV and allow the event to be shown on terrestrial TV or take a significant chunk of the revenue and direct it to the Club Pro and make sure they have subsidies that make it easier for them to get more people to take the game up. This could be by way of subsidised advertising of beginners classes or equipment.  In essence it will be the Club Pro who will engage learners to take the game up so give him and her the tools to make this happen and the whole game will benefit.