Category: Golf
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Sports Ambassadors – ‘The value of human engagement’

Robin Fenwick, Chief Executive

The dust has finally settled on what was an extraordinary sporting weekend just gone and we’ve now had some time for Sunday’s two major, record-breaking achievements to truly sink in.

I’m talking, of course, about Dustin ‘DJ’ Johnson winning The Masters and Lewis Hamilton reaching seven Formula 1 World Drivers’ Championships.

These were far from normal victories, with many records sent tumbling. DJ won by five shots in Augusta, the largest margin since Tiger Woods in 1997. He also equalled the lowest score in major history of -20, which became the best ever at Augusta National.

As for Hamilton, his Turkish Grand Prix masterclass takes him to the most amount of race wins by any Formula 1 driver (94) and a record-equalling seven drivers’ titles, matching Michael Schumacher’s total and essentially becoming the most successful driver of all time.

 

For me, it’s an interesting time to consider what this means for brands partnering with these two individuals. Bottom line, with few exceptions, success breeds success – so any brands associated with these ambassadors should be absolutely delighted given the significant positive exposure they have received.

 

The structure of the deals for the brands you will have seen on these two sportsmen’s clothing, however, are very different. Hamilton is contracted by Mercedes Motorsport not just to drive for them, but to give up most of his ‘marketing time’ and his intellectual property including name and image rights, for example, whilst on team duty.

 

While under heavy media attention at a Grand Prix, Hamilton is required to wear team kit displaying sponsored brands, which deliver huge exposure for partners. DJ, by comparison, can wear what he likes, when he likes. Of course, he will still be contracted to brands of his choosing, but at every golf event he attends it will be him that decides what to wear and how much marketing time to commit.

One is not necessarily better than the other, because Hamilton receives a very healthy salary from Mercedes Motorsport to cover the sacrifices he makes, but in doing so he also gives up quite a bit of ‘commercial freedom’. 

In terms of benefits to brands associated with Hamilton and DJ, put simply, an endorsement from one of these individuals will go a long way to drive sales and patronage for the brand.

Furthermore, Hamilton’s reputation now transcends the sport. His work to raise awareness for social issues including diversity in sport, Black Lives Matter and sustainability initiatives is heavily aligned to the core values of some of the world’s biggest brands.

When high-profile individuals convey your message in an authentic manner, it resonates more effectively with fans, leading to increased relevancy of your product – even if your customer only subconsciously realises it. 

Ambassadors can help set your business apart from your competition. While others traditionally promote through advertising, they are largely delivering the same kind of message. ‘Made with the finest ingredients’ or ‘We go above and beyond’, are examples that consumers are understandably sceptical of. Individuals can give your brand a personality that allows you to make much more personal and emotive connections with your desired audience. 

When customers understand your brand’s values, goals and beliefs, they are much more likely to trust what you have to say as an organisation. Particularly at this time during ‘lockdown’ in many countries, it can be difficult to effectively convey brand personality to the public without actual human interaction. Through ambassadors social channels, there is an opportunity to speak to your audience in a subtle, but persuasive manner that they will understand. Let us take some time to consider the most engaged social accounts around the globe – not only can ambassadors deliver a deeper level of social engagement, but they can also engage with consumers at far greater scale than many brands could through their own channels.

 

The crucial part when choosing an ambassador is to ensure the individual’s audience is right for your business. For example, two of DJ’s (personal) partners are Adidas and TaylorMade and two of Hamilton’s (team) partners are Tommy Hilfiger and IWC watches. Each brand mentioned chose to work with these ambassadors because they will resonate with their respective customer base. 

We at Right Formula, through smart technology, are able to put this into practice, and identify and target the customer personas of our clients that overlap with the audience of the chosen ambassadors in order to reduce wastage and ensure brands optimise their return on investment. 

It’s not only important to select the right partner for the brand, but also to decide what you would like to achieve, such as the ‘promotion of a specific product’ or to ‘align with a particular campaign’. Most audiences are pretty savvy and can easily spot a partnership that is not authentic, which in turn will have the reverse effect and possibly a negative impact of the talent and/or the brand if the messaging is forced. 

However, research shows that consumers are more likely to pay attention to their social circle than they are to paid advertising, and this social circle includes people they follow online. Consumers often tend not to follow brands online, but 72% of people decide what they want to buy based on social media posts, proving if you find the right individual who resonates with your customers, it can deliver significant results.

So while we are all going through our own challenges at the moment and are more receptive than ever to the ‘value of human engagement’, now is the time to consider how an ambassador can accelerate your business in a way that truly sets you apart.

 

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Opinion: Why the European Tour’s UK Swing Series should be an annual event

Chris Bovey, Head of Partnerships

While the attention of global golf media might be on the PGA Tour’s BMW Championship this weekend in Illinois, the final event of the European Tour’s inaugural UK Golf for Good Swing gets underway closer to home at The Belfry. Installed in the middle of the Tour’s season as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic, benefiting both players and brands, I believe the UK Swing should stay.

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!

“At Right Formula, for years we have been the intersect between brands and rightsholders by helping connect the two and activating partnerships that mutually benefit all stakeholders.”

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.