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It was the biggest talking point at last year’s Ryder Cup, and ‘Hatgate’ got us thinking. How much does it cost to put your logo on a golfer? Alex Perry went to find answers…

Not many will have had Patrick Cantlay as the man who would ruffle feathers in his Ryder Cup team room, but by refusing to wear a USA-emblazoned cap – and the subsequent variety of reasons issued for his headwear rebellion – the American made himself a pantomime villain in Rome.

Now whether you choose to believe it was down to a pay row with the PGA of America or, as he said, simply a case of the cap not fitting, Cantlay opened a number of cans of worms. But the money factor left us scratching our heads.

Patrick Cantlay was central to one of the biggest talking points at the 2023 Ryder Cup. (Credit: Getty Images)

Golfers, like all sports stars, are walking billboards. Caps, collar, and sleeves – you name it, the world’s finest will put a logo on it in return for a handsome payday. So exactly how much can a top player expect to sell off their real estate? For this, we needed an expert who would be willing to give us the lowdown. That led us to Daryl Evans.

Before founding industry-leading marketing agency Rocket Yard Sports, Evans ran the European Tour department at a top equipment manufacturer, where his job was to sign some of the best players in the world.

So there aren’t many people better placed to give us the inside scoop on what goes on these negotiations, what the brands are looking for, how that dictates the pricing, or what the market value looks like. More importantly, he’s keen to tell us all about it.

“I have always thought this stuff never really gets spoken about enough in the public domain,” Evans tells bunkered. “So there’s a lot of clarity as to how it works, and what brands are actually paying for, because sometimes it’s a bit of a misnomer.”

The problem with asking such an open-ended question is you tend to get an open-ended answer. And it’s not just a case of Player A gets X and Player B gets Y. If it were that simple, our chat would have lasted but moments. Instead, Evans takes us on a journey that covers everything from how much players are paid to play certain clubs, what the corporations are willing to put down, and how the social media market has ripped up the rulebook.

There’s also the small matter of Mr Cantlay, but we’ll get there later.

So before we start putting numbers on it, what do the brands actually want in return for opening their chequebook?

“Manufacturer deals and corporate sponsors prioritise logo placement on the front of hats,” Evans explains. “The front of the hat, the right side of the hat, and the right sleeve are the most valuable assets you can have for logo placement.”

This, of course, is to gain maximum TV exposure when a right-handed player is hitting a shot in front of the cameras.

But there’s so much more than that.

“When you start to look at a lot of these contracts, they are going to say they want logo placement front of house, but it’s also going to ask how many service days are required? How many social posts are required? How many different appearances and attendance at certain other functions and events are required? And can they tap into personal networks?

“A good example of that would be a tour player who might be sponsored by a wealth management firm, so as part of that agreement there might be three or four commitments per year where that player is going to play golf with two of the sponsor’s personal friends, or people within their network, to introduce them to the firm and generate leads.

“Now you don’t even need logo placement for that kind of sponsorship. But that front of hat logo placement can be very lucrative.”

rory mcilroy
Rory McIlroy signed a reported $250-million deal with Nike in 2013. (Credit: Getty Images)

So how does it work when a brand that doesn’t manufacture hardware, such as Nike, gets involved? Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Scottie Scheffler are all players who play TaylorMade equipment but are head to toe in Nike apparel.

“Exclusivity is a big part of the expense of a contract,” Evans says. “From the manufacturers’ perspective, it will be a reduced retainer, and they won’t be paying as much as they would normally pay if they got full logo placement.

“It will be bespoke, but it could be as much as 50 or 60 percent less than what their value would be.

“But what they will try and do to compensate for that is get more time with the player, more service day usage, more content creation opportunities, and stuff like that.

“Think about some of the video footage that went out earlier this year with Woods, McIlroy and Scheffler in a bunker having a conversation. Now it’s great content, but it’s also difficult to coordinate, and that’s a lot easier if you’ve got multiple days of opportunity, because the player is signed up for these commitments.

“But there’s no question that the actual cash value will be a lot less, especially without logo placement, which is still a priority for companies like TaylorMade, Callaway, Nike, Adidas, and others. So they make executive decisions, like to go with Tiger and Rory, as it’s worth having that association with them as two of the most iconic names in the game.

“Think about TaylorMade as a brand. It’s an aspirational product company. People who buy TaylorMade products are golf savvy, and will know that Tiger and Rory play TaylorMade, therefore it’s a smart decision for them. And I expect they pay less for it, so it’s even better.

“On the other hand, Callaway sign Jon Rahm and he has been a significant addition to their stable.”

Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy have a long-standing relationship with TaylorMade. (Credit: Getty Images)

Right, let’s talk zeros.

“If you’re an entry-level guy on the European Tour and you’re sponsored by an equipment manufacturer, that’s going to be around $40-to-$50,000 to enter the market – depending on the type of deal you have,” Evans explains. “Once you start to get a little bit more established and you’re a top-70 player in Europe, that might go to somewhere between $100,000 and $150,000, again depending on your status and other variables, such as the number of logo placements, how many clubs you have in your bag, and how many service days you have to offer. But as a window that’s what you would be looking at.

“If you’re a top-20 player in the DP World Tour Order of Merit, you’re probably going to have a brand going in somewhere – and this is where the variables really kick in – from $150,000 through to $500,000.

“Once you start breaking into the top 50 in the Official World Golf Rankings, that’s when it can go a lot bigger.

“From 50 to about ten in the world, that could vary between about $500,000 to well over a million.

“But there are variables, participation bonuses, and all sorts of things that can boost the pricing up – though bonuses can also be used to keep retainers down.”
And the top ten in the rankings?

“There’s nobody on less than a million,” Evans says. “And the top, top guys – so one, two and three – will be upwards of $5 million a year, which, again, depending on variables, could easily rise to beyond $15 million.”

But then the apparel complications kick in. If, say, a Nike or an Adidas want to have exclusive logo rights across a golfer’s hat, clothing and footwear, then they need to dig deep.

“Nike, for example, pay a premium to not have any other logo placed on the player,” Evans says. “That means they have both sides of the hat, both shirt sleeves, everything.

“They will pay a lot more for those sponsorships, because it’s buying out everything they can possibly have, which is why you see them sponsoring a Rory McIlroy a reported $200 million over ten years.

“And the key currency is a multi-year agreement – which might have up-front sign-on fees as well.”

how much does it cost to put a logo on a golfer's cap
Justin Rose is a player who prefers to work with corporate sponsors. (Credit: Getty Images)

Then, of course, there’s the corporate agreements.

“Those kinds of deals will probably be topping seven figures,” Evans explains. “They could be $1 million, $2 million, and in some cases up to $7 or $8 million, because it’s going to be those higher-echelon players that tend to that get that kind of a corporate sponsor.

“Having said that, there’s no responsibilities for equipment, therefore they’re not bound to anything. So sometimes they could arguably be earning less from a corporate sponsor deal, but they have more fluidity in the bag. But then what they’ll do is they’ll try and bolster up those fees by appearances.”

ian poulter sponsors
If there is space on Ian Poulter, he will fill it with a sponsor logo. (Credit: Getty Images)

So what are the downsides to going overboard on sponsors? Evans says he knows of one player who is backed financially “by a few brands”.

He continues: “He has 30 days’ worth of commitments every year that he has to do for all of his sponsors.

“That’s quite a lot of days for a tour player. The average contract will have anywhere between three and five service days.

“But you’re starting to see brands request more and more time because that’s where they see the value over logo placement.

“The danger with logo placement is there can be a lot of clutter.

“How many times do you see it when a player is being interviewed in front of an acknowledgment board, and they might have their Nike hat on, but there are 20 sponsor logos behind them?

“All that does is drive revenue down in terms of media valuation.”

John Daly’s relationship with restaurant chain Hooters has led to him wearing some rather outlandish clothing in recent years. (Credit: Getty Images)

And so we come full circle to Cantlay and his Italy antics, and Evans is somewhat sympathetic to the mischievous American.

“The Ryder Cup is worth several million dollars in media valuation per player,” he says with his marketing hat on.

“I don’t think you’ll have one player that’s not generating at least $10 million for the week in media value, so I understand his point about not getting paid.

“They are all getting $200,000 each to give to charity, but they’re not getting paid for the front of hat, and it must be frustrating to see the other executives get paid for not really doing a lot – and their money’s only going up.

“Now I’m not speaking on behalf of Cantlay, but I’m assuming he’s quite happy to play for free.

“The injustice for him isn’t the fact he’s not getting paid, it’s that all these other executives are getting highly-inflated fees for being connected with the Ryder Cup. That’s more his problem.

“I suspect if he felt like they weren’t getting paid either, or they were donating money to charity, he would find that much more palatable.”

• Now read: How does an equipment manufacturer sign a player?

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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