He is the youngest Masters winner since Tiger Woods, and now 21-year-old Jordan Spieth is on his way to becoming the most marketable American golfer since Woods in his pre-scandal prime.
That’s according to sports marketing experts, who say Spieth’s sensational victory at Augusta, allied to his wholesome character and cool demeanour, will have sponsors battling it out for his signature.
Steve Martin, global chief executive of M&C Saatchi Sport and Entertainment, was at Augusta to see Spieth’s record-breaking first two rounds up close. He believes Spieth’s evident determination will be a big attraction to brands. “I think that’s where his appeal is going to be – that drive that he has. He’s very cool and calm and under control, but boy he has a go for things – he wasn’t holding back.”
Marie Binet, head of insight at Sports Revolution, agrees that Spieth has the ideal image for endorsements. She says: “He is the perfect American kid; clever and hardworking, involved in some charity work around autism (his sister is autistic), went to a Jesuit high school and is from Texas. He has everything that American consumers love: he is conservative, confident and there is that innocent side of him which is probably refreshing after the Tiger Woods scandal.”
According to Bloomberg, winning the green jacket could earn Spieth as much as $10m a year in endorsements – and the sports marketing industry certainly seems to agree that serious riches await. “The top golfers are among the most rewarded of all sports stars,” says Nigel Currie, director of sports marketing agency NC Partnership. “The sport is truly global and if you are one of the top players in the world the potential earnings are huge. Being so young (and American) is another major benefit for Spieth and he will have sponsors queueing up to secure his services.”
Spieth already has a raft of endorsements to his name, including AT&T, Rolex and the ball brand Titleist. In January, his main sponsor Under Armour had the foresight to rip up the two years it had left on its deal and sign the prodigy to a new 10-year contract that will keep him head to toe in its apparel until 2025. Esteve Calzada, the former FC Barcelona chief marketing officer now running Prime Time Sport, tells The Drum Spieth will enjoy “heavy activation” from existing sponsors, not least Under Armour, to whom he is “one of the most strategic assets in company marketing”.
As M&C Saatchi’s Martin explains, the key to growing Spieth’s global marketing appeal lies in his current sponsors properly activating their deals and the youngster’s team making the right choices about who they partner with next. On the latter front, they can afford to be choosy.
“These guys are earning so much money now, at such a young age; they can pick and choose what they do,” Martin says. “And that’s a pretty privileged position because then money is not the sole driver at all – it’s about the fit and working with the correct partners that are not going to get in the way of him improving his game. So he’s going to be very picky, I imagine. That would certainly be my advice to him.”
Spieth’s true marketing potential will only be realised if he can maintain his performances on the course. But there is no denying the Masters victory has given him an enormous boost in profile. “Ahead of the tournament, 20 per cent of the US population already knew who he was. A figure that will surely grow in the coming months,” says Jon Stainer, managing director of Repucom UK&I.
Stainer compares Spieth's standing to that of golf's last breakthrough star, Rory McIlroy, when he hit the big time. Ahead of McIlroy’s 2011 US Open win, only 17 per cent of the US population had heard of him, explains Stainer. Following the win, that figure leapt to over 48 per cent and his DBI Score, which measures overall marketability, grew from 34.27 to 55.73. As Stainer puts it: “If Spieth can secure a second major in 2015, we could well be seeing the making of the next Rory McIlroy and, even, Tiger Woods."
A sustained rivalry between Spieth and McIlroy over the next 10 years would be a certain way to maintain both players’ ever-growing brand appeal.