Golf returned to tournament action with the Charles Schwab Challenge in Fort Worth, Texas, earlier this month, which was a watershed moment for live sports in the wake of the pandemic.
In an attempt to garner more interest and make fans feel a stronger connection with players, the PGA had some players mic’d up for the telecast. This seemingly minor change of hearing players and caddies interact could be a huge engagement driver—and ultimately a game changer—for golf; both diehard fans and casual sports fans are likely to find it intriguing.
Live audio helps answer questions that occur to TV viewers. For example, what do golfers think about as they’re standing in the fairway trying to launch a golf ball 200 yards over water to a postage stamp-sized green? And what kind of dialogue are the player and caddie having over a putt on the 18th green with a couple hundred thousand dollars at stake? Or, maybe most interestingly, are these guys having any fun out there?
A Strategic Window of Opportunity
While the NBA and NHL are officially coming back, it’s not happening fast enough for many fans. (We’re currently looking at August for the return of both.) This opens up a window for the PGA to introduce sports fans to its athletes in a completely new way, using tactics like live audio.
With 16 of the top 20 players participating in the Charles Schwab Challenge and a star-studded leaderboard that included the top five in the world, it’s clear that the players are ready to play. And with the U.S. Open and Open Championships canceled this year, the game’s best will be compelled to participate in lesser-known tournaments.
Between now and August 1, the PGA is scheduled to hold five tournaments, notwithstanding the cancellation of the majors. That’s a lot of golf over four days each week for almost two months, which presents a big opportunity for advertisers who are looking to replace “sports eyeballs” in the absence of MLB, NBA and NHL games.
Sports fans are also clearly primed and ready for more golf. According to NBC Sports, a charity match featuring Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson called TaylorMade Driving Relief drew over 2.3 million viewers—760,000 of whom were in the 25-54 age group—when it aired on May 17. That’s a whopping 40% higher than a similar Match Play event last year.
Meanwhile, the Match, which pitted Tiger Woods and Peyton Manning against Phil Mickelson and Tom Brady, was even more impressive. According to Turner Sports, the competition between these legends averaged 5.8 million viewers across the four stations covering it on May 24, with a peak of 6.3 million. It also raised $20 million dollars for COVID-19 relief. Not a bad Sunday.
Why Golf is a Good Play
So why is golf a good play for advertisers over the next six to eight weeks?
- There is limited live sports competition, which will continue for the immediate future with only NASCAR and MMA to vie against.
- There is pent-up demand for live sports in general, evidenced by the killer ratings for sports documentaries like “The Last Dance”, which averaged 5.6 million same-day viewers.
- Golf supplies in-demand demos for more than just sports-minded advertisers. Golf fans tend to be more affluent and educated than other sports fans; they’re more likely to invest more than $100,000 and use investment services. It’s also worth mentioning that females account for over a third of PGA tour fans.
- Golf’s performance is already proven—and is poised to get better. Consider that the NBA was averaging 885,000 viewers prior to the shutdown, and the NHL was averaging around 352,000. It’s still early with a lot of pent-up enthusiasm from sports fans, but golf events are currently obliterating that performance. For example, the final round of the Charles Schwab Challenge on CBS averaged 3.09 million viewers, which is an increase of 50% from last year, and the national average household rating was also up 50%.
This summer, golf may have its best opportunity in memory to draw in new viewers and re-engage former fans while other major sports struggle to get started again. This is a critical moment for the sport, and it has the momentum.
Now might be your time, Golf, and you have people’s attention like never before.