Golf could see its popularity rise after German Martin Kaymer's victory at the US PGA Championship, observers say. As the sport becomes more visible, it will become more attractive to sponsors and advertisers.
Kaymer's silverware could mean a goldrush for German courses
Martin Kaymer got a huge career boost when he took home his first career major title at the US PGA Championshp at Whistling Straits, Wisconsin, on Sunday, and golf in Germany is likely to get a shot in the arm as well, including the financial side of the sport.
"I'm trying to make golf more popular in Germany," Kaymer said after his victory. "I hope I can also inspire teenagers."
He's also likely to inspire German marketers and advertisers, who have been held back from using golf as a major platform for advertising due to a lack of high-profile golfers in the country. While the number of players in Germany is growing, the sport still has a reputation of being a pastime of the elite.
"Martin Kaymer has what it takes to bring golf out of its Sleeping Beauty state," Sven Mueller, head of the marketing agency People Brand Management, told the Handelsblatt daily. "As an advertising icon, he could bring a sideline sport right into the spotlight."
Kaymer's personal brand has already been on the rise. He is the first German to win the rookie-of-the-year award on the European Tour. In May, he was chosen by automaker BMW to represent the brand as official "Golfsport Ambassador." He already has contracts with Taylor-Made, the golf line of sportswear-maker Adidas, watchmaker Rolex and clothing firm Lacoste.
Golf fans and associations are hoping the victory of 25-year-old Kaymer can finally allow the sport to shake off the rather dusty image it still has among many in Germany.
"It's an enormous chance for us," Christoph Meister of the German Golf Association told Deutsche Welle. "It's definitely going to help boost the popularity of the sport."
Golf is growing in popularity in Germany
According to the association, more than 600,000 Germans are registered in the country's 800 golf clubs. The sport has enjoyed growth rates of around 4 percent a year for some 15 years. Since 1980, the number of golfers in Germany has increased by a factor of 12.
But still, many Germans think golf is a game for lawyers and doctors who have a lot of time on their hands and plenty of disposable income, according to studies carried out by the association.
To counter that image, the organization has started a campaign called "Play golf - have fun," in which it is trying to rebrand golf as an affordable sport that the whole family can play.
But there is still a ways to go. In the face of all-powerful soccer, golf is just a blip on the radar screen in Germany.
And while marketers have begun to notice it a little, it still does not have the popularity or economic clout to move German television stations to broadcast it. Although German papers were ecstatic about Kaymer's major tournament win, Germans without pay-TV could not watch the actual event.
"That is a big disadvantage for the sport here," said Meister.
The last German to win a golf tournament at this level was Bernhard Langer, who won The Masters tournaments in 1985 and 1993. While there was hope that golf would grow in popularity after his first victory, his accomplishment was overshadowed by then 17-year-old Boris Becker's triumph at Wimbledon.
"Then everybody started playing tennis, not golf," said Meister. "Today Langer's name is much better known in the US and UK than here in Germany."
Golf's fortunes appear to be changing. In Germany, a study by the marketing group Sport+Markt found that almost 4.2 million Germans are interested in the sport. Its popularity will likely grow in 2016 when it appears at the Olympics in Brazil. If Germany is successful in its bid to host the 2018 Ryder Cup, golf will reach the masses.
Bernhard Langer was German golf's last great hope
"Mid-term, golf is going to become more attractive for sponsors," Sport+Markt director Michael Cordes told the Handelsblatt.
While Christoph Meister agrees, he is not certain Kaymer's recent victory will open the floodgates regarding the marketing of golf. He does think it will help secure sponsorships that golfers and the sport in general already have. That's no small achievement, he says, since in March Sweden had to withdraw its application for the 2018 Ryder Cup because it could not find a sponsor.
Overall, Meister optimistic about his favorite sport's outlook. Finally, he says, it is getting the recognition - by individuals, companies and the press - it deserves.
"When I opened the paper this morning, I saw a full-page story about golf," he said. "That normally doesn't happen. The editors are noticing that something unusual is going on."
Author: Kyle James
Editor: Sam Edmonds