It’s a dream we’ve all had at one point or another. Playing golf professionally, for a living, cashing in on some sweet sponsorship deals.
While it’s not impossible to make this dream a reality, it is very difficult. The road to professional golf is long, winding, and expensive. Sponsorships can help to shoulder much of the burden. Though they aren’t super easy to acquire, there are a few different ways you can go about getting one.
In this article, we will explain how golf sponsorships work, why they are important, and how you can get sponsored yourself.
Amateur Golf Sponsorships
Before a player turns professional, they must rise through the ranks of amateur golf. By racking up a number of appearances and high finishes in amateur tournaments, the player can make their journey into professional golf a lot easier.
But if you’re an amateur who is serious about turning professional, you’re going to need quite a lot of money to cover travel expenses, equipment expenses, tournament entry fees, and so on. A lot of people don’t realize just how expensive it is to turn professional.
To make matters worse, the USGA has some pretty strict rules regarding amateur financial rewards. Quite simply, a golfer of amateur status is exempt from earning monetary rewards in competition. And if an amateur is ever caught in breach of these rules, they can have their amateur status revoked, all but killing their chances of ever turning pro.
So a way around this is to acquire sponsorships. While an amateur can’t earn money directly from a sponsor, a company may provide them with clothing and equipment, and they can cover all expenses related to tournament participation.
This can greatly help to ease the financial burden of an amateur golfer, meaning they can focus more on what really matters: golf.
Future Professional Golf Sponsorship
When an amateur feels that they are ready, they will make the big decision to try and make it on the professional tour. It’s something that thousands of golfers try to do every year. Very few find tangible success.
The financial, physical, and emotional demands increase ten-fold compared to amateur play. The expenses of traveling around the country and competing in numerous tournaments are huge. Add to that the cost of a caddie, and all the equipment, and you’re talking, quite literally, hundreds of thousands of dollars per year.
So for a player who is at the start of their professional journey, a sponsorship is of course necessary. But how do you get one?
How Do You Get A Golf Sponsorship?
As an amateur, you could approach companies directly to enquire about sponsorships. If you are able to speak to the right person, and you can demonstrate that you are worthy of their investment, they may agree to provide you with some free equipment, or possibly even cover your expenses.
It might seem like a daunting task, but just remember that you’ve got nothing to lose. Put forward a clear and confident case, explaining why it would be a good idea for the company to sponsor you, and you might be in with a shot.
However, as per the USGA amateur rules, the player is not entitled to any extra financial reward from the sponsor.
Acquire an Agent
Realistically, if you are an amateur golfer or are just starting your journey as a pro, you’re probably going to need an agent.
If you’re good enough, it shouldn’t be too difficult to attract the attention of a golf agent. They normally work for player management firms, which tend to scout young players, sometimes as early as high school. College and amateur tournaments are frequently attended by talent agents and scouts. They are looking for players who are likely to turn pro.
It becomes the agent’s job to market you and find sponsors. In return, they take a cut of the money you earn from the deals. Since they will have plenty of relevant contacts in the industry, it shouldn’t be too difficult for them. This allows you, the player, to spend your time playing golf rather than seeking business deals.
However, it’s important to remember that it’s not just a simple matter of hiring an agent. They come to you, not the other way round. You need to be playing some top-notch golf and show real promise in order to be considered.
Enter some high-profile tournaments and get some top 10 finishes under your belt. Easier said than done, I know, but once you’re in the line of sight of an agent, your chances of acquiring a lucrative sponsorship deal will multiply.
Social media is huge, far-reaching, and powerful. Nowadays, clothing brands would be mad not utilize social media to market their products – and you, as a golfer seeking sponsorship, can take full advantage of this.
Devote some time and attention to your social media pages. Create informative and entertaining content, engage with people, and you should naturally start to cultivate a significant following. If you are able to build a decent following on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, etc., then golf companies – particularly clothing brands – will start to take notice.
It might start with them sending you a few freebies here and there. But if things develop, it can soon progress to a full-blown sponsorship.
And the best part is that you don’t have to be the greatest golfer in the world to acquire a social media sponsorship. It’s your personality, and your flair for crafting engaging content, that will stand out more than your golfing ability.
If you’re just starting out in the pro spheres of golf, and you haven’t yet won anything big enough to get you noticed, and you don’t have any useful contacts that could help you secure a sponsorship, then social media could be the answer.
How Do Sponsorships Work For Professional Golfers?
Starting out as a professional is tough, in almost every way – mentally, physically, and financially.
But if you can navigate the early scramble of acquiring a sponsorship, and then start to achieve some professional success, the tables will quite dramatically turn.
If you’re a professional golfer with a good playing record, then companies will seek you out, competing with one another to get their brand in your hands.
The top professional golfers are paid millions by their sponsors. Tens of millions. Just for wearing a certain outfit or using a certain set of clubs. In the 2018/19 season, the top 100 golfers made a collective $4 billion. A small percentage of that is competition winnings – the rest is sponsorship money.
Some sponsorship contracts have strict caveats, whereby the player can only use products belonging to the company in question. For many years, this was common practice of companies like PING, Nike, and Titleist. But this of course led to problems – players wanted to be able to use certain clubs or balls, or shafts, that were separate from their main sponsor.
If a player is a brand ambassador of, say, PING, then all of their clubs – putters, wedges, irons, and woods – will be PING. But some players are sponsored by multiple brands, so they might use, for example, a PING putter, TaylorMade irons, and a Titleist driver. Exactly what the contracts stipulate is between the player and the companies.
Of course, the player doesn’t have to pay for any of the products sent by their sponsors. It all falls under the company’s marketing budget.
How to Sponsor A Golf Tournament
If you’re running a golf tournament, you’ll almost certainly need to have it sponsored. It’s the only reasonable way to cover expenses and offer lucrative prizes.
While it may seem like a daunting task, acquiring sponsorship for your golf tournament can be easily achieved with a bit of planning.
A good place to start is to establish what the sponsor will get in return for their cooperation. For the most part, it will be increased brand awareness. But it can also provide opportunities for the sponsors to network within the community. Or, if you are running a charity tournament, sponsors will have the chance to align their brand with a specific set of values.
Next, you’ll want to compile a list of potential prospects. Tap into the professional and social networks of your committee members – chances are, between you, you’ll have a number of business owner contacts. Then, add prominent local businesses in the area to your list. With a list of potential sponsors acquired, it’s time to start outreach.
The best way to proposition potential sponsors is to provide a range of sponsorship options. Different packages can be tailored to specific needs and budgets, which is important if you want to appeal to a range of companies.
For instance, you could offer the opportunity to sponsor a hole-in-one contest, which wouldn’t be too costly and provide a fun bit of exposure. Or, they could Sponsor a Hole, whereby they sponsor as many holes as they like and have their company signage posted at each one. You could also propose a Title Sponsor position, which would be for the largest donor, giving them large exposure in the form of banners, special speech mentions, and flyers.
As long as you offer different levels of sponsorship, offering varying degrees of brand awareness, you should have no trouble attracting a nice collection of sponsors for your golf tournament.
Acquiring a golf sponsorship isn’t easy, but it’s not impossible. If you’re a good player, and you’re serious about turning pro, then sponsorship is certainly within your reach. You’ve just gotta keep playing the game, and strive for some high tournament placings.
If you are an amateur or are starting out as a pro, and you feel as though you are deserving of a sponsorship, go ahead and reach out to some companies. You’ve got nothing to lose, and you might just be what they’re looking for. Of course, acquiring sponsorship becomes a whole lot easier if you have agency representation.
But also, you should never underestimate the power of social media. If you can build a decent following, certain brands will be chomping at the bit to sponsor you.
And once you hit the big time, you’ll be drowning in sponsorship deals!
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Nick Lomas is the founder of GolfSpan, an avid golfer, not quite a pro but has over 15-years of experience playing and coaching golfers from all over the world. His mission is to bring the golfing community a better experience then it comes to choosing the right golf gear, and finding the right set up for your game.