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Ask any golf fan with which manufacturers certain players are affiliated and most will be able to tell you. The two go hand in hand in this modern world – and it’s why the brands pay the big bucks to put their gear in the hands of the world’s best, and their logos in any space they can find.

So how does an equipment manufacturer sign a player? When bunkered chatted to industry expert Daryl Evans about just how much costs for companies to sponsor golfers – it’s well worth reading that first, by the way – he gave us a fascinating insight into the process with an anecdote from his days working in the European Tour department at on of golf’s leading equipment manufacturers.

We’ll let him take up the story…

bryson dechambeau
Bryson Dechambeau was highly-sought as an amateur. (Credit: Getty Images)

“When Bryson DeChambeau and Jon Rahm were the number one and two amateurs in the game, we were in the running to sign both.

“Now I’m in Abu Dhabi, and I get a phone call from America saying they need me to go and take DeChambeau out for dinner because we’re trying to sign him.

“But the players also want to know who the people are behind the brand, because they’re going to be working with them day in, day out.

“You’re trying to figure out if we can work with this guy, and if this guy can work with us, and you’re trying to make sure there’s an interesting and good fit.

“They want to go to the factories, they want to get the proper fitting experience, they want to see it all just to make sure they can make the most informed decisions.

“But so do we. That’s just the way it is.

“The whole idea of these relationships is that they’re multi-year agreements, so if you’re not going to get on quickly, you’re going to have a problem later on.

“And sometimes you have to make tough decisions and say no to certain opportunities in order to work with the right guys that you feel like you can help and can help you.

“It’s like you’re interviewing each other. It’s just trying to understand what their expectations are.

“DeChambeau was a good example, because he had single length golf clubs, so at that particular dinner we spoke a lot about that, and one of the attractive things for him was his single-length golf clubs.

“At the time, there was certainly no intention to do that. Obviously there would have been a bespoke set specifically for DeChambeau, but it wouldn’t be something that we would have cross-promoted anywhere else.

“The following day I get a phone call asking for the scoop, and they say we’ve got a small snag, because another brand have come in with an offer for DeChambeau.

how does an equipment manufacturer sign a player?
Jon Rahm used TaylorMade equipment as an amateur before signing a deal with the brand when he turned pro. (Credit: Getty Images)

“It was less complicated with Rahm, though, and from an investment standpoint it made sense to sign him due to his status in the amateur game and the diligent analysis we had carried out.

“They are both popular in different sectors of the audience, so we would have been happy to sign both, but we couldn’t do that.”

It’s not just about signing players, though. Discussion also need to be had on an annual basis about retaining them or, indeed, letting them go.

“We were looking to renew different contracts for different players,” Evans begins. “And at the time we had a player who was in the top five in the world, as well as Dustin Johnson and Sergio Garcia, who were up there as well.

“Now, Sergio is very popular in the United States, which is a major part of audience viewing figures.

“The other player is popular here in the UK, but of all the brand’s icon players, he had the lowest interest levels in the US.

“So we had to make a decision because, at the end of the day, we need to sell golf clubs, but you’re trying not to be ruthless because you build a relationship with these players.

“In the end, we did renew the contract, but there was a serious conversation to say they would not do that.”

How social media changed the landscape

how much do youtube golfers get paid
YouTube star Rick Shiels commands a number of high-profile deals, including Lyle & Scott and Ecco. (Credit: Getty Images)

Of course, it would be remiss to ignore the importance of another type of golfer which brands are falling over each other to sign.

Yes, it’s the social media influencer. Evans continues…

“A lot more brands now are moving towards that space, because the audience number never declines. They only ever grow over time, and they are not reliant on good performance.

“We’re at a stage now where probably 20 core influencers in the world are earning more than 50 percent of the top players on the DP World Tour. They will be on $100,000-plus contracts, and that is becoming much more common.

“But when you think about the influencer market, those guys are producing in-depth reports, analysis, and data that is all measurable. So the challenge you have with a media valuation report from the TV is, yes, you can get the ratings data, but you’re not able to easily pick up anything that happens outside the broadcast, so your actual reports are incomplete.

“The influencers are so digitally and analytically savvy, they’re able to provide much greater insight and demonstrate more bang for your buck, which pro golfers can’t do.

“Take a tour player like Stephen Gallacher or Jamie Donaldson. They’re all Ryder Cup winners, and they’ve been very successful golfers for a period of time, but for whatever reason – whether it’s distractions, or just age catching up with them – their performances start decreasing, and new players come into the game and excel, so they are no longer relevant to the Ryder Cup.

“That means their audience size is not growing, their media attention is not in high demand anymore, they’re not in contention as often, so TV is not picking them up, which means
their media valuation goes down and down and down and their sponsorships follow suit.

“With the influencer market, because the audience numbers don’t go down, and the engagement numbers are relevant across the key players in that space, their money is going up and up and up.”

Daryl Evans is the founder of industry-leading sponsorship and marketing agency Rocket Yard Sports.

author headshot

Alex Perry is the Associate Editor of bunkered. A journalist for more than 20 years, he has been a golf industry stalwart for the majority of his career and, in a five-year spell at ESPN, covered every sporting event you can think of. He completed his own Grand Slam at the 2023 Masters, having fallen in love with the sport at his hometown club of Okehampton and on the links of nearby Bude & North Cornwall.

Associate Editor

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