When it comes to killer questions the one I was asked last evening has to be one of them..
Who are the customers of the PGA and LPGA Tour Players?
Good question, right? And this one needs to be discussed in somewhat detailed and not jump forward to any quick conclusion as I know how many of you interneters want to be. What is of interest is how the tour professionals fit into the economy of golf. Pro Tour events now touch the core of business golf and any business or golfers on either end of the spectrum of the golf economy. Understanding clearly who these professional golfers’ customers are may help you and others understand why these guys and gals play golf for a living. So bare with me while we take a look at the answer to this question.
Business of Pro Tour Golf
Who are the customers of the professional golf tour players? Is it the sponsors whose logo appears on players’ shirts and golf bags (or anything else that the TV cameras might pick up)? OR..is it the golf tournaments, the events, the PGA/LPGA, USGA and the like, that gathered up the prize money for each event? Or…could it be you and me..the rabid avid golfers of the world who will pay anything and go anywhere to see professional golf played (Yes, that includes all the non-(real)golfer fans of Tiger Woods who just go to the tour event to see if he does play as well LIVE as he does on his video games..geez)?
For who does that bell toll for pro tour golfers?
The answer is probably all of the above, but really, who are these guys and gals really out their pounding the rocks for? If you take the case of the steel face Tiger Woods you would think he is playing for himself and there are a few others like him, then you could maybe say they are playing for themselves. However, are they doing it for themselves? I am sure in some cases this may be true, but if you drill down to the core reason they play professionally their appearance of conceitedness is probably driven by their fear of failure.
Then you have the Rocco Mediate’s and Christina Kim’s who never pass a golf fan without saying hello or smiling..or in Rocco’s case..talk their ear off while waiting for his golf partner to tee off…go Rocco, or Christina high fiving everyone as she walks down Dina Shores’ walk to the 18th hole..man, can she high five..go Christina.. You would think their reason for playing contradicts the appearance of conceitedness. These type of players handle the pressure of competition differently since they see their job as being fun. Failure is a concern, but delivering value to their customer seems to override the fear of failure.
When you look at the entire field of professional golfers you see all kinds of ways they work at their job. Yes, Really! What they are doing out there every week, with the exception of Tiger who plays when he wants to but when he does does work for his money, is their job. Yes, they are getting paid for what they do. Depending on how you look at it, the sponsors endorsement and product deals pay for them to enter the event and get to the event, but the prize money is what they are out there to win..but that does not answer the question…who is their customer?
Golf Business 101
The PGA says the tour players are independent contractors. Really? Do they sign a contract to play in an event, several events, all events..if so, couldn’t the PGA contract Tiger to play in more events so more people can see the worlds greatest golfer? But I digress.
So these guys and gals are independent business people. If I remember my Business 101, business is defined as someone selling something to someone else for money. So, what are the PGA and LPGA Tour players, who are independent contracts for the PGA/LPGA Tour Events, selling and to who?
See, this is a good question.
In discussing this question with my business partner and former PGA Tour Player, Dave Bisbee, I found Dave’s answer interesting. However, even Dave felt he was not sure if his answer is correct.
When I was on tour I was just focused on making a dollar by trying to win the event. I was never conscious of there might be another reason for why I was playing in the event other than making a haul by winning the purse. I don’t think many tour players playing today see what they are doing is selling anything..they are just trying to make a living playing golf..the focus of what goes on around them is blocked by that drive to win.
As our discussion went on Dave and I boiled the situation with the tour professionals down to comparing what the PGA/LPGA Tour players are doing to being like the Roman Gladiators of centuries ago. People pay to see the warriors battle each other to literal death. However in today’s golf arena they don’t battle to hurt each other physically..unless you consider Brandt Snedeker four putting on the 18th hole of the final round of the BMW Championship as falling on his sword.
Still, these guys and gals are battling for a prize which in today’s arena it is for money instead of for their life…or could the pro golfers not winning the money be looked at as losing their life?…hummm. Not winning an event and losing their playing privileges on tour could be the end of that part of their life..so maybe they are playing for themselves or for their life.
Who Has the Bacon?
I think we are getting close to an answer that may have been obvious from the beginning of this blog. However, lets break this down like a project or a business plan to see if by removing one of the possible customers these Pro tour golfers could be playing for to see if they are working for them or not. This should show us who has the bacon for these guys to bring home.
OK, lets take away the sponsors and product endorsement money the Pros make. If they did not have that source of revenue would it stop them form playing professional golf? If it did then that would indicate that who these guys and gals are playing for are their sponsors. But, this is not totally true.
Case in point: Ryan Moore and Steve Elkington..they endorse no sponsors or product (or at least no logos on their shirts or bags to indicate they are getting paid to promote something)..and they are playing on the tour..and in Ryan’s cases..playing well. So it would not seem with this example the Pro Tour Players are playing golf for sponsors. I am sure there are many of the lower tier tour players who are living off the sponsor endorsements contracts until they hit the jackpot, so maybe for some of those tour players, they are playing for the sponsors.
Now lets take away the events the pro tour players play. Naturally, taking away the arena they play in will stop these guys and gals from playing golf for big money and stop the sponsors from paying them to wear logos to put on the TV cameras. So, you would think that removing the events would indicate that the PGA/LPGA is who these guys and gals are playing for, but it still is not an absolute answer.
With these guys and gals being the warriors of the battlefields of golf just removing the large arena would result in them playing in smaller unofficial golf outings. When that happens any golfer worth their salt is going to want to pay to see them battle it out. Then the circle starts again building back the need for larger and larger battlefields.
So taking away the official recognition of the PGA or LPGA is not stopping these guys and gals from playing competitive golf…its in their blood to play golf..they are going to play golf for money. So, on the most part, the PGA/LPGA are not the Pro Tour Players’ Customers. However, in today’s golf economy, these tour players base income is predicated on them playing in these official PGA/LPGA tour events. So, in many cases these guys and gals are playing for the PGA/LPGA or tour event.
Now, if you take away the central nervous system of golf..the millions of golfers in the world, would the Pro Tour Players be able to make money? Lets take a look at this.
Golfers’ money are who the sponsors and golf product manufactures are after. So, if there were no golfers at the Pro Tour events the sponsors would not be interested in paying tour players to play. If there were no golfers to attend the pro tour events there would not be a purpose for the pro tour events to be produced so there would not be an arena for the pro tour players to play.
Pro golfers maybe move back to the early days and play for a small wager, but without the millions of golfers to push the golf economy the days of the Pro tour working at their profession of competing for a large prize purse would be over. Unfortunately, so would GOLF as we know it today.
Many in the golf industry are going to say golf has lived thru worst and there will always be golf, but all this shows is they are living in denial. The climate of this economy is different. I am not the one to yell Chicken Little and say the sky is falling, but if more golfers at the lower end of the golf economy leave golf because they cannot afford to play golf, then eventually their interest for golf is going to move them to not attend tour events which leads to sponsors not reaching the audience they demand which leads to the core source of the majority of the golf industry’s revenue to dry up.
So the simple answer to the question of who the pro tour player’s customers are is clearly the Golfers. However, is the answer as simple as that? No. All of these components of how and why the Pro tour players play golf are effected by the Pro tour players position in the golf economy.
So many other industries feed off the funds generated by the money the pro tour players winnings and related revenue associated with the generates for the tour events. And I am not talking about the caddies or the golf coaches salaries entirely.
There literally hundreds of small businesses that service the pro tour players and event. Without any of them the pro tours would not be anywhere what we are seeing golf as we see it today. Billions of dollars is at stake and the pro tour players need to see clearly who their customers are and help them all succeed in this economy. If not, then golf as we know it today will change to the worst.
So, in reality Who are the Pro Tour Golfers play for? Is it you?
Let me know how I can help.