A four-letter word that all of us golfers are very accustomed to yelling more than we care to admit. But for this purpose, I’m using it to draw attention to some interesting business trends within the sport at the present moment.
A recent article from Golf.com reflected on the merger between Topgolf and Callaway Golf that happened two years ago. For those of us that pay attention to the sport, the announcement begged the question, ‘why?’. Well, as I sat down to read this piece, the answer became more clear and highlighted some business trends that are being echoed across the sport. A few thoughts….
Topgolf brings the revenue
Topgolf Callaway’s 2022 earnings report shows Topgolf (locations, Toptracer technology and media) made up 39% of the brand’s total revenue. In comparison,35% came from equipment and 26% came from lifestyle for Topgolf Callaway brands. If you spend any time playing golf consistently, you know how expensive the sport is, especially when it comes to clubs. Adding a play-driven revenue stream to the mix was a strong financial move for Callaway.
But Topgolf isn’t just a venue. When Topgolf is uttered, most people think about the highly successful, rapidly growing ‘sportainment’ concept that has 70+ locations in the United States and about 10 internationally. (If you haven’t gone and have the opportunity, treat yourself. It’s a blast.) The fact is, Topgolf can also easily be classified as a media and technology business. At SRI, we love talking about the convergence of an abundance of industries (sport, tech, entertainment, education, etc), and Topgolf is a shining example of that.
Golf needs diversification
‘Golf’ has a new definition these days. The modern definition goes far beyond a set of clubs and walking 18 holes for a few hours on a weekend morning at your favorite track. For traditional golf manufacturers like Ping, Titleist, and Taylormade, how do they evolve and strategically hitch their wagons to complimentary offerings like Callaway has done? Golf boomed during the pandemic, but club sales have slowed in recent months. Challenger/premium brand, PXG, recently laid off a big chunk of their workforce, and Nike’s decision to quit making equipment a few years ago is a relevant data point as well.
Diversification is needed to bring in a new fan, a new audience, and a new consumer. On that note, have you checked out Netflix’s golf docuseries, ‘Full Swing’? I’m skeptical that is has the level of impact on the sport like ‘Drive to Survive’ has had on F1, but I’m interested to monitor it as the series gets off the ground. Season Two is already in motion. As a traditionalist in the game, it is obvious that the editing of each episode has the novice/uneducated golfer top of mind.
Golf + Media = Profits
Lifestyle sport = golf? Not entirely, but I think the game has made serious strides in that regard. The Golf.com article nods at Callaway’s partnership with new media golf brand, GoodGood Golf. I recall seeing a tweet from a golf writer recently about how manufacturers aligning themselves with media companies is a great strategy to grow their brand, and ultimately sales.
TaylorMade has aligned with Barstool’s golf group, Fore Play, while Titleist has aligned with No Laying Up. Now, you may not be familiar with GoodGood Golf, Fore Play, or No Laying Up, but let me tell you this: As of February 2023, the three media companies had a combined 353 million views on YouTube. I’ve got a strong allegiance to No Laying Up’s content and quite honestly can’t get enough. It is relatable, relevant, and easily digestible in comparison to sitting down and watching a 3 – 4 hour telecast.
But that is exactly the point – groups like No Laying Up are creating content that appeals to a wider audience, and Titleist’s decision to partner with them in an authentic manner will no doubt pay dividends to growing their consumer base. I think we are at the tip of the iceberg with these types of partnerships.
There is no denying the game and business of golf is modernizing and advancing. A lot of dust still needs to settle and there is plenty of uncertainty ahead but let’s be frank, it is needed. I’ll be watching closely, and hope you will be too.