Sponsorship in Golf, Golf in Sponsorship

By: | Wed 14 May 2014 | Comments

Post by Matt Holbrook taking a look at sponsorship in golf at the other end of the game.

Whilst I sit back and watch all the seasoned professionals in golf live in their expensive houses and drive their fast cars, private jet here, private jet there - I can’t help but maybe let a tiny bit of jealously kick in. After all, who wouldn’t want to live that type of lifestyle?

Stepping away from the main tour and scratch beneath the sparkly surface and you may or may not be surprised to find that it is a completely different story.

I saw an interview recently with a player on the Challenge Tour describing his woes on trying to fund an assault on this tour in a view to getting onto the main tour claiming that to make a real go of it he would need to raise around £90,000 per year. This particular player is clearly gifted enough to compete at the highest level. So where does this money come from?

Winning at that level would make you around £10,000 to £15,000 on average (some are higher with 83,000 Euros to the winner of one particular event last year) so you would need to pick up 4-5 wins realistically on what is a massively competitive tour.

A lot of professional golfers now are still working part time whether it be at the local course, driving ranges or pro shops. I would love to see some figures on how many of your local golf pro’s at courses across the country gave up the ambitions of reaching Challenge/European Tour due to the cost involved in funding. It’s also worth keeping in mind that to really make a successful go of it and make it onto the big stage you do need to dedicate 100% of your time on practising, traveling and competing.

Sponsorship at the other end of the Professional game

When I think of a ‘sponsor’ I think of giving my niece £2.50 for skipping a 1000 times a day. I don’t really think of ‘A mutual business opportunity’ – But should I? Ultimately it’s an advertising opportunity right?

So many players at this level in both men’s and women’s golf are frantically trying to find ways of drumming up funds to propel them towards their dreams and stardom. Is there an opportunity to for business people/companies? Surely it’s a scaled down version of Tiger Woods getting paid £1000’s to represent Nike or Rory McIlroy by Jumeirah earning £1,000,000’s for a win.

For every Nike, Jumeirah and Rolex there could be a smaller high street chain, travel agent or self-storage company that could be getting the same benefit – just on a smaller scale?

I recently spoke with Kelly Tidy, a 22 year old professional golfer from Bolton. Back in 2010 Kelly shot to fame within the golf world with her win at The British Amateur Championship. Kelly finds herself in this same situation and tells me about her task of trying to fund her way onto the LET and she shared her struggles with me.

“With sponsorship I basically have had to search myself through every contract I have or my parents, or my grandparents have.

Obviously I try and push things through social networking like twitter and LinkedIn to advertise myself. I have also been on the radio, my local radio station Bolton FM talking about sponsorship and asking for help! I have put articles in the Bolton evening news sports section and in the business section.

But you can't wait around for sponsorship forever, so I have started to work myself, and working takes away practice time, but sadly there will be no golf tournaments without any money to get there! So it was my only option. I now work part time at a driving range near my house - Golf Rossendale. I work behind reception and I also do some coaching here, roughly 20-25 hours a week. I also work on Friday nights doing running night golf events, which are great events and great money, but again take away practice, training, rest time.

I also work cooperate days, which I don't mind at all because at least I get to stand and hit balls all day long! So they are pretty fun!

Getting sponsorship is very difficult and yes you’re correct it is one of the main reasons why a lot of our good young players never make it. Golf is not a cheap sport, and when you get to a professional level it's very hard to get yourself going without any funding.

Having funding behind you has massive benefits to your golf as well, because you can compete with a relaxed mind knowing that you can afford to get to your events all year. It takes away a lot of stress and pressure that you don't need”

Kelly, amongst 1000’s of others, could definitely benefit from a number of companies that are working desperately hard trying to help aspiring golfers to generate priceless sponsorship. One of which, Dave Rose from VIP Golf Management who shares his own fight in this particular task.

“VIP Golf management was formed after a 'conversation' with two club professionals who are old friends of mine. Both told me that they are enjoying their life as a club pro, but both missed their days on tour in Europro events - but lack of financial sponsorship cut short both of their promising careers.

My first step was to approach some aspiring young pro's who did not have any management companies looking after them. With a highly promising group of talented individuals on board. I was to determined to make my venture free for professionals (some management companies will charge a sign on fee). My next step has proved to be slightly more difficult.

I spend the majority of my time now speaking to local, as well as national companies, trying to secure funding on any level to offer my aspiring professionals. Like the golfers themselves I will also approach old golf partners, business partners, family and friends who might be able to offer support, almost acting as an extended network to the guys and girls I’m trying to help.

Young pro's are paying entry fees of approximately £250 for 36 hole events. Once you factor in travel, accommodation, breakfast and evening meals - expenses of close to £150, you can see that close to £400 is spent before he or she makes it to the first tee!

The world's top players have large companies queuing up to offer lucrative sponsorship/endorsement deals to players that are already multimillionaires.

It is the next generation of golfing superstars that need the most amount of financial support in the early part of their careers.

My aim is to offer individuals or companies the opportunity to be associated with these young tournament pro's at a small fraction of the price of sponsoring a highly established superstar on The European Tour “.

So you can see from two sides of this ever growing problem that both of the above are fighting for the same outcome, but from different angles.

One suggestion to this perhaps, is for the Pro’s to ‘sell a stake’ in themselves like they were shares on a stock market. It would no doubt be easier for someone in Kelly’s position to generate £20,000 by finding 1000 people that would be prepared to stake £20 each, almost as a punt, than what it would be to find a single stake of £20,000. It would no doubt create interest in Kelly’s progression as well as offering a potential return on such a small investment. Should she fail (I’m sure she wouldn’t) it would also mean less to those that have staked £20 than what it would to someone (person or a business) that would stand to lose £10,000/£20,000.

There must be other solutions, finding them is the hard part, but for now we must wait and watch and see if this problem continues to grow over the coming years.

You can follow Kelly’s progress and contact her by following her on Twitter @kellylouise92 or visiting her website http://kellytidy.com/

You can get in touch with David from VIP Golf Management by either visiting the facebook page https://www.facebook.com/vipgolfmanagement?fref=ts or the website www.vipgolfmanagement.co.uk

**Since going to press Kelly has finished 2nd in her first Ladies European Tour access event after a year out with an injury. She lost in a sudden death playoff.

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