Golf Influencers Over Golf Pros?

Golf Influencers Over Golf Pros?

Have we reached a tipping point where golf brands will abandon playing pros in favor of “golf influencers?”

In the eco system of the last hundred years or so, sporting goods manufacturers have relied on golf pros to attest to the quality and performance of their products. Wilson, Spaulding, MacGregor and others had “staff” players to promote their products from the 1920s onward.

The system must have worked — or perhaps it was really the only option they had to get their equipment noticed.

I think it has been a long time since endorsements have worked, however. I don’t know anyone who has purchased a set of clubs because “Pro X” plays them. A large number of regular golfers apparently watch the pro tours sparingly, if at all. There are some 24 million golfers in the US, and the PGAT gets perhaps 2 million viewers per broadcast — not all of whom are golfers (My mother does not play golf, but enjoys watching on tv.)

I think there are few who could pass a quiz on which golfers play which brands (or wear which clothes). I like my Srixon clubs, but don’t know who — if anyone — plays them on tour. (Srixon ZX 5 MKII Driver Review; Srixon Z 585 Irons Review)

In writing about this on several occasions over the last two decades, my thought was that players would be more likely to purchase clubs recommended by their home course’s PGA Professional, or by a clubfitter.

Two recent press releases made me realize, however, that the future is “influencers” on YouTube and Tiktok. As a teacher in a school where the kids are obsessed with what is on their Tiktoks, I should have known this. Mea Culpa.

The first press release that jarred me awake was SuperStroke announcing that it is partnering with the Good Good YouTube crew. The second was a similar one from Callaway, which is producing a Good Good limited edition golf ball.

GoodGood is basically a bunch of random guys playing golf in reality tv style videos. It is likely entirely a sign of my age that I find their mugging for the camera insufferable. I acknowledge that their 1.5 million subscribers disagree with me.

I’ve also noticed that some of the YouTube instructors I enjoy, such as Alex Eliott have sponsorship deals.

And then there’s Rick Shiels. He’s a golf influencer in a class of his own.

The PGA Tour averages somewhere around two million viewers for each of its broadcasts.

Good Good has 1.5 million subscribers, and a perusal of their videos — produced once every week or so — shows that they get 500,000 to more than a million views for each.

Sending golf gear out to publications for review has been standard practice for manufacturers as long as there have been golf publications. I think that works. Whenever I see a friend with new equipment, they always say something along the lines of “I read about it in a couple of places and then went to Miles (or Carl’s) to check it out.” (Miles of Golf and Carl’s Golfland are our local golf superstores).

Influencers with gear, however, are a different thing. They don’t have to review the merchandise. They just have to wear and use it (with appropriate product-placement camera angles). I doubt Good Good is going to do a full blown SuperStroke review; they undoubtedly will have not-so-subtle camera angles showcasing the grips (fwiw, you can read my own Superstroke review at the link).

Will that work? At worst, it’s probably as effective as having tour players use a company’s clubs, balls and grips. In fact, it may be even better, since tour players don’t have a way to get the tv cameras to linger lovingly over their bags.

In a world where linear tv viewing seems to be on a downward spiral, and pro golf is in disarray, YouTube and Tiktok golf influencers may be the best way forward for manufacturers.

Anyone want to sponsor a golf blog?

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