By Rick Horrow and Karla Swatek
September 28, 2012
Whether it’s played on European soil or right here in the U.S.of A., golf’s Ryder Cup gives fans of the sport and its corporate sponsors alike their own private Indian summer, a final warm weather reprieve before the discontent of golf’s silly season sets in and even the most diehard golf watcher gives in and turns the dial to football.
This weekend’s iteration of the biannual tournament, however, set at revered Medinah Country Club in Chicago’s western suburbs, provides golf fans with more of a dilemma than in seasons past. Should they root, root root for the home U.S.A. squad, anchored by Tiger Woods and offering a nice balance of Ryder Cup vets and nervous rookies, or for the European team led by golf’s charismatic young superstar Rory McIlroy and a resurgent Sergio Garcia?
Golf matures into more of a truly global game each year, especially with its return to the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro coming up, and in recognition the PGA of America and IMG Media have just announced a multiyear extension of their 25-year partnership, allowing IMG to distribute this year’s Ryder Cup to more than 140 additional countries and territories outside the U.S., U.K. and continental Europe. The deal also gives IMG Media international broadcast rights for the PGA Championship, Ryder Cups in the U.S. and Senior PGA Championship through 2016.
Golf’s global footprint is also a blessing for such sponsors as Zurich NA. The insurance giant took out a full page ad in Sports Illustrated and other print media with all seven of its global ambassadors—golf pros from all over the world—dressed in period costumes to celebrate Zurich’s 100th year of insuring America. The ads mention that four out of the seven players are Ryder Cup selections, but show no favoritism other than mentioning the century of doing business in the U.S.
On Monday, TaylorMade-adidas announced that the adidas Golf brand will be an official licensee of the 2012, 2014, and 2018 Ryder Cups. The collection of men’s and women’s apparel, including polo shirts, windshirts, and sweaters, will be available at retailers in Europe, as well as merchandise tents at the future Ryder Cup events, according to the company.
In the sponsor realm, though, the contest between watchmakers Omega and Rolex is possibly more suspenseful than any Ryder Cup match. According to the Associated Press, Omega’s sponsorship deal with the PGA of America, just extended through 2016, gives the company marketing rights at the PGA Championship and the Ryder Cup—but only in America. The European Tour, which has joint ownership of the Ryder Cup and negotiates its own marketing deals, has a long term relationship with Rolex. Since the PGA of America runs the Ryder Cup this year, Rolex "is not allowed any presence at Medinah.” Further, Omega since has signed U.S. Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III as an ambassador, and the company presented all the American players with a commemorative watch “with a sapphire crystal case and the Ryder Cup emblem in the dial." However, American golfers Woods and Phil Mickelson "have deals with Rolex." Rolex, finally, "traditionally presents the European team with watches," but European golfer Garcia is an ambassador for Omega.
While the Ryder Cup marks the sport’s most prestigious duel of nation versus nation on fairways and greens, its significance is certainly not lost on the tens of thousands of spectators who attend every two years, and on the communities that bid decades in advance for the honor of hosting the event. About 40,000 fans are expected to attend each day of Ryder Cup practice and official rounds at Medinah, with regional economic impact estimated at $125-150 million according to the DuPage County Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Even before the first ball was struck, Ryder Cup merchandise sales on Shop.PGA.com were higher than any other calendar year. September 4, the day the U.S. Ryder Cup captain’s picks were announced, was the highest sales day for Ryder Cup merchandise this year. Total site visits per day are up 186%, and sales have already exceeded any prior year.
The Ryder Cup is also a huge engine for golf-related giving. The American Ryder Cup team will "donate a combined $2.6 million to designated charities and various grow-the-game initiatives through the PGA of America’s Ryder Cup Outreach Program,” according to Golf Channel.
And finally, here’s a look at who is already leading the Ryder Cup in points from a golf equipment perspective (including both American and European team rosters):
6 - Titleist: Rory McIroy, Jason Dufner, Webb Simpson, Zach Johnson, Nicolas Colsaerts, Steve Stricker
5 - TaylorMade: Justin Rose, Sergio Garcia, Martin Kaymer, Dustin Johnson, Peter Hanson
2 - Bridgestone: Matt Kuchar, Brandt Snedeker
2 - Nike: Tiger Woods, Francesco Molinari
2 - Ping: Bubba Watson, Lee Westwood
1 - Callaway: Phil Mickelson
1 - Cleveland: Keegan Bradley
1 - Cobra: Ian Poulter
1 - Mizuno: Luke Donald
1 - Srixon: Graeme McDowell
1- Wilson: Paul Lawrie
*Jim Furyk: no official sponsor