When the 2015 Masters gets underway in Augusta tomorrow, it won’t just be the familiar old guard in chino slacks tuning in to watch the action.
According to a study from the sports industry advisers Repucom, the Masters is the most popular tournament amongst younger viewers and will likely attract a more youthful audience than ever thanks to a new breed of exciting players headed by Rory McIlroy.
Despite the much talked about return of Tiger Woods to the tournament he has won four times, it is players such as McIlroy and 21-year-old American Jordan Spieth who will capture the public’s imagination at the first major championship of the season.
For example, golf fans loosely described as “millennial” (18 - 34) are most likely to be looking forward to seeing Spieth in action compared to a more established name such as Phil Mickelson, despite the fact he is known to just 20 per cent of the US population.
Repucom also discovered that over 45 per cent of the US population was aware of McIlroy - and 85 per cent of those people who knew him said they find the Northern Irishman a likeable figure.
McIlroy has usurped Woods as the face of EA Sports' PGA Tour Game after 15 years, and the American has also had to vie with his younger rival for attention from their sponsor Nike.
Founder and chief executive of Repucom Paul Smith explained:
This exciting generational shift in the sport, combined with the changing landscape in golf’s marketability means the Majors will, this year, play an even greater role in shaping who brands align themselves to.There are more players in the mix vying for that number one spot and many of them are attracting younger audiences which remain the lifeblood of any sports fan base. Interestingly, the appeal of edgier personalities are allowing brands not synonymous with golf to breakthrough, largely in apparel. Rickie Fowler’s partnership with Puma and Jordan Spieth’s recent 10 year deal with Under Armour provide good examples of this.Ultimately for sponsoring brands, it’s all about getting that sponsorship fit right. Aligning to a player who has the right mix of appeal, credibility and familiarity whilst still speaking to the brands’ values and customers is vital.
As well as providing the opportunity for brands not usually associated with golf to attach themselves to the sport, a younger crop of players breathing life into a sport often accused of stuffiness has encouraged more established golfing brands such as Nike Golf to experiment with their output.