The European Tour and DP World

Pretty big news in the world of golf yesterday, as the European Tour announced a long-term partnership with DP World.

This deal means the tour will now be called the “DP World Tour”, and aside from anything else it’s a handy way to reposition the ‘European Tour’ as a much more global entity (it will now have tournaments in 27 countries, all over the world).

It also means an increase in prize money for the players, with a total prize pool of $200m on offer for the first time. That’s still dwarfed by the PGA Tour with over $600m, but it’s a significant increase.

There’s clearly an element of Dubai national brand building going on with this deal, as well as a desire to head off the proposed Saudi Golf League, but the game as a whole has come through the pandemic in remarkably good health, from a commercial point of view.

So why is golf so popular with corporate sponsors? On the face of it, a sport that’s played for several hours over four days isn’t exactly built for the “short attention span” economy we keep hearing about.

Golf is a relatively niche sport. Globally, only 10% of people have an interest in it, compared with 70.5% for soccer and 36% for basketball and 37% for gaming. It’s even behind American Football.

It’s also not very popular with the young consumer that so many brands are trying to connect with. Just 9% of global 16-64s have any interest in golf, compared with 72% for soccer, 40% for basketball and 49% for gaming.

Having said that, the average age of a golf fan is 34 – only slightly older than for soccer, American Football and basketball. Even gaming has an average age of 31.

So it’s not about massive global reach, or the youth market. The key to golf’s appeal to the corporate world is, of course, the income level and purchasing power of its fan base.

16% of golf fans fall into the highest household income segment within their country (and 41% are in the high income segment) – well ahead of other global sports.

14% of golf fans are also in senior management or executive roles – again easily outstripping most other sports.

And just to reinforce the point, 32% of global golf fans have a high value of savings or investments, compared with just 21% of soccer fans.

With all that in mind, it’s not hard to see why a lot of corporate brands (including quite a few B2B businesses) are happy to pay the big bucks to align themselves with the professional tours and to engage with this lucrative audience.

There is a longer term challenge for the game in making sure it stays relevant and appealing to younger generations, to ensure that the next generation of well-off consumers are also golf fans. I’m sure that’s on the mind of both the PGA and European Tours as they do these deals – an enhanced ability to growing the game at the grassroots, and investing in community impact, are both highlighted as benefits of the DP World partnership.

(All data from GWI Q3’20 – Q2 ’21)

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