Brand Marketing lessons from The Masters Golf Tournament

The Masters as a BrandObservations of the Masters brand marketing. 
The Masters continues to be revered in the world of golf as the best and most prestigious annual golf tournament, but it is also admired as one of the world’s greatest sport’s brands in the world. Over time, the Augusta course has been adjusted and lengthened to meet the constant changes in players athleticism and the player’s equipment, but its quality and heritage continues to shine through like the drive down Magnolia Lane.

magnolia laneThe Masters as a competitive golf tournament, with a global image and distinct brand personality has also kept pace with dynamic changes in media coverage, information technology and it’s unique close relationship with its global audience and attending spectators “the patrons”.

The Masters reportedly has the most viewers globally than any golf tournament, being in it’s own description, “a tradition unlike any other”.

The Masters Brand Vision

It appears that from it’s beginning in 1934 with Bobby Jones and Clifford Roberts, Augusta National has consistently delivered on the  brand vision is to “create the best possible golf tournament for both players and spectators”. 

Golf Digest recently reported that in 2015 The Masters will generate $155million in revenue, with profit of almost $30 million, with each of this years sponsors IBM, ATT, Mercedes-Benz paying around $8 million each to have 4 minutes of advertising every hour with it’s long term TV partner CBS. Learning from past negative publicity, Augusta National places priority on having control of the brand media image over a annual bidding war to maximize top an bottom line.

The Masters brand imagery, reflects its pure golf heritage, along with its well executed pageantry and its manicured fairways and greens, but it has a brand mix of other events that are also legendary e.g.Spieth Facebook Page

  • The Champions dinner
  • The Par 3 competition
  • The unique vocabulary e.g. spectators are referred to as “the patrons”
  • The fame of Augusta National golf course e.g. Amen Corner
  • The Big 3 starters Palmer, Nicklaus and Player
    and of course
  • The famous coveted Champion’s the Green Jacket.

These tangible and intangible features all work together to deliver the best possible golf tournament for both players and spectators”, plus they have created a tour de force of a brand personality.

What makes this even more impressive is that the Augusta National has executed a “brand relaunch” over the last 10 – 12 years, under the brand management guidance of Billy “Mr Chairman” Payne.

Augusta National  shook off it’s tired fuddy-duddy negative male-only image and have become a driving force in promoting golf globally and delivering a top quality real time online experience with significant investments in information technology and executed in line with the brand personality and values: 

  • early tournament coverage on website
  • coordination with TV partners, CBS and ESPN
  • discreet camera angles, plus videos and hole by hole tracking
  • sophisticated data & analytics
  • social media connections with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram

Some observations (and lessons learned) from the modern brand marketing of the “old” Masters as “young” Brand:

  • Continuously clarify and confirm your brand’s positioning, ensure it is distinct and unique.
  • Maintain close control of your brand’s advertising and promotion to protect your brand image.
  • Make changes as necessary, incorporating the latest technology where necessary and appropriate.
  • Look after your brand advocates, the players, past champions, golf opinion makers, media commentators etc
  • Design and promote quality distinctive brand logos & images, remember sometimes for promotion & placement “less is more”
  • Give back to “your target community” e.g. drive-chip-putt competition
  • Ensure you deliver every year on the brand vision i.e. “create the best possible golf tournament for both players and spectators”
  • Manage negative publicity / issue with open honesty, and stand by your brand values, heritage & positioning, and be ready to accept change when appropriate
  • Make the brand values, the priority of the business not the P&L alone
About John Cullen

Experienced marketing professional, with over 25 years experience in global brand marketing, focused on Internet Marketing for last 10 years.
Living in Cincinnati, Ohio and working with Clients in USA and UK.

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