Tiger Woods was injected into the sport of golf in 1996 and was the most talked about golfer of our era. He created buzz.
In 1995, the year before he turned pro, Greg Norman was the top money winner, earning $1.6 million. Last year, Jordan Spieth was the top earning golfer, with $23.3 million in purses. In 1996, the leading money winner in golf earned about what the Major League Baseball average player did. Since that time purses for golfers (on just the PGA Tour, not counting the other tours) have quadrupled.
In terms of sponsorships, Woods changed that, too. Mark Steinberg told Golf Magazine this month that "the number of non-endemic industries grew, and the endemics took a whole new view of the sport." Think Nike creating an entire golf division.
In 2015, sponsors like Red Bull and Under Armor are footing the bill, and new companies show up to sponsor tournaments. Good, but not top tour pros like Jimmy Walker and Graeme McDowell make upwards of $4 million alone in sponsorships. Top Woods era pros like Mickelson still command $50 million a year or more.
They should all have Tiger Woods posters on their wall.
There was a time when in racing many thought a Triple Crown winner could do similar for horse racing. Those days are gone now, but it does provide us all, in my view, a good lesson: Horse racing is not a sport like golf, or others.
As I noted in yesterday's post, "stars" do not have the same coattails, and using scarce marketing money to promote, or use them to try and increase handle, or an audience, will have a pretty low return on ad spend. There will be no quadruple of purses, no Red Bull, no big TV deals. Racing is simply not built that way. It's not dealing with athletes like Woods, it's dealing with purchases that are used for entertainment purposes, or the thrill of owning a champ.
I believe our star horses, in harness and Thoroughbred (even great ones like American Pharoah) have value, but the value lies in their worth in promoting bloodstock purchases. Hey, you can own a Triple Crown winner and be on the Today Show. Hey, you can buy Foiled Again for $12,000 and he will be the leading money winner in history. Let me show you how. If this business wants to build a strategy around that with the star horses, I am all for it, as we all should be. It's good for the business, and everyone wants to bet deeper fields with many barns, instead of some Pletcher or Burke four horse entry going for $200 large.
Anything else, however, as we noted yesterday here on the blog, seems pie in the sky. You can't apply the marketing and revenue generation rules of a sport like golf, or football or baseball to racing, because it is not a sport like golf, football or baseball. This is a niche sport, that leans on wagering to survive.
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