SBD/August 15, 2017/Marketing and Sponsorship

Justin Thomas' Marketability Helped With PGA Championship Win, But Still Not At Top Echelon

Thomas already endorsed brands like Titleist and Ralph Lauren before his PGA win
Justin Thomas’ star is "on the rise" after his win at the PGA Championship, but the 24-year-old golfer still "has a long way to go to catch up with Jordan Spieth and the rest of the sport’s top endorsers," according to Thomas Barrabi of FOX BUSINESS. Univ. of North Carolina marketing professor Jonathan Jensen said that while a first-ever major win "can only add to Thomas’ visibility, it may not be enough on its own to bring him to the sport’s top echelon in terms of marketability." Thomas had endorsement deals with "several top brands before the PGA Championship," including Titleist, Ralph Lauren Polo, Citi, FootJoy and NetJets, and earned $2M off the course last year. But while Thomas has "gained national prominence within the golf world for his recent run of strong play, he has yet to match players" like Dustin Johnson or Spieth in terms of crossover appeal (FOXBUSINESS.com, 8/14). Citi today runs a full-page ad in USA Today congratulating Thomas for his PGA Championship win and promoting the upcoming Presidents Cup: "Where He Goes, Birdies Follow." Also, Rolex runs a full-page ad in the N.Y. Times congratulating Thomas: "First Major!" (THE DAILY).

ENTERING A NEW ERA: CBSSPORTS.com's Kyle Porter wrote under the header, "Justin Thomas' Win Makes It Undeniable: A New Era Of American Golf Has Arrived." Only history will "truly tell us when a new era of American golf was formally ushered in, but you could do worse than 2017 as a starting point." Americans have "won seven of the past 12 majors, and five of those have been from golfers under 30." American golf is in the "capable hands of these baby thoroughbreds, and if the past few years have been any kind of harbinger, it will be exciting to see where they take it from here" (CBSSPORTS.com, 8/14). In N.Y., Karen Crouse writes, "Bless the PGA Tour’s millennials ... for demonstrating that competition and camaraderie need not be mutually exclusive." What is "really worth copying is their collective and optimistic approach to sport." It is "probably not a coincidence that men’s golf right now is the province of young players who revel in the process." The Tour's young players relish "every opportunity to compete, which is why complacency doesn’t appear to be" in their vocabulary. Thomas, who has won four times this season, "didn’t sound as if he is ready to take his foot off the pedal and cruise through" the FedExCup Playoffs (N.Y. TIMES, 8/15).
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