PGA Takes Approach That Is Not Par For The Course


Earlier this week, the PGA Tour announced that it was changing its slogan from “These Guys Are Good” to “Live Under Par.” Changing one of the most prominent features of the PGA Tour brand after 20 years would be news on its own. What is potentially more interesting, however, is the thought process behind the change. According to AdWeek’s Robert Klara:

The most noticeable feature of the new campaign, developed with a creative assist from L.A.-based branding and marketing shop Troika, will be to augment the usual content that focuses solely on the technical aspects of play with content that includes softer and more personal elements such as the experiences of the fans who attend tournaments and the lives of the golfers when they’re not playing golf.

The “These Guys Are Good” slogan solely focuses on the players’ abilities and the PGA Tour had focused much of its brand strategy around this concept. The PGA Tour’s new insight is that winning, on-course performance, and “technical” skill is not the sole, or for a larger portion of fans, the primary driver in people’s interest in golfers. In fact, the data showed that the fans were identifying with the players as stars in addition to being successful athletes. As Klara states, a “demographic the PGA Tour dubs ‘Sports Socialites’—and make up nearly a quarter of golf’s viewers—are looking for far more social and interactive content (emphasis added).”

This is not the first time this year that the PGA Tour recognized that it needs to not be focused solely on athlete’s performance. Many have noted that ratings have increased significantly since Tiger Woods’ most recent return to playing in PGA Tour events. The PGA Tour recognized that it needed Woods to compete in order for the organization to maximize audience size and the revenue generated from media rights agreements.

In The Sports Strategist: Developing Leaders for a High-Performance Industry, my co-authors and I highlighted a strategy that the PGA Tour put in place specifically to address this issue. In 2011, the PGA Tour was able to secure a 33% increase in its media rights deal even though Woods was at the time in what my co-authors and I described as at his “competitive nadir,” having not consistently performed well since the 2009 season. How did the PGA Tour accomplish this? From The Sports Strategist:

The PGA Tour’s critical insight was to ensure that its broadcast partners could sell their advertising inventory regardless of ratings fluctuations. The PGA Tour proactively gained commitments from sponsors to buy approximately 75% of the advertisements during tournament broadcasts. As, the chairman of CBS Sports, said about a new agreement, “It’s a close to a guarantee as you’re going to see in big-time sports today.” 

The PGA Tour’s new slogan, “Living Under Par,” is consistent with this type of strategic thinking. On course performance will always be a component of a player’s star power. The slogan’s “under par” component is a direct reference to the fact that golfers’ want to score as far under par as possible.

Changing the slogan shows the PGA Tour’s understanding that it needs to the look at the holistic value that players create. For example, golfers such as Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler, Justin Thomas, and Bubba Watson are top-ranked players but are also top athletes in trying to interact with fans particularly through social media. However, golfers such as Grayson Murray and Max Homa have struggled on the course but have succeeded by showcasing their personalities in social media channels. The PGA Tour recognized that it has an opportunity to take advantage of their golfers’ strengths off the course.

B6A’s products also take this holistic approach to asset valuation with our Revenue Above Replacement (RAR) model being a good example. To determine an athlete’s value to a team, league, or organization, we examine a player’s on-field, off-field, and personal performance. While on-field is an important component, it is not the only component of a player’s value. As the PGA Tour demonstrates, fans, media, and sponsors want to engage with athletes both on and off the course. This a consistent feature of virtually all athletes in all sports.

The PGA Tour has created an economic model where it can be successful even when its star golfers are not performing on the course while also taking advantage of these golfers' successes when they do happen. Its new slogan now more accurately reflects this strategic approach and enables the organization to better position its brand and monetize its success both on and off the course.