by Adam Stanley, Flagstick Contributor
I love the opportunity to read up about golf’s history and take in personal, exclusive stories of guys who have been to some of the biggest events in the world. That’s why I was excited to pick up this month’s Golf Digest as I knew there would be a special section about the PGA Championship and it’s return to Kiawah Island in South Carolina for the first time in a major event since the Ryder Cup in 1991.
The cover for the magazine also featured one of the game’s best young stars, Rickie Fowler. Fowler has gained a legion of fans since his red-hot debut on Tour in 2009 thanks in large part to his humble demeanor, homemade swing, daredevil background, and of course, his highlighter-bright wardrobe.
Not only has Fowler picked up fans both young and old, but companies of all sorts have been lining up to sign him on to promote their products. I knew that Fowler was a big reason for a few companies’ expansion into golf – Puma and Redbull, for example – and responsible for a full rebrand of Cobra; however, the latest edition of Golf Digest might as well be called Rickie Fowler Digest.
He on the front cover, and the topic of the main story, but the first quarter of the magazine had no less than three ads which featured him, and another one which featured his caddy.
This begs the question, is Rickie Fowler the most marketable man in golf?
The answer is a resounding ‘yes.’
Not only was Fowler shown on the front cover and featured in ads for companies from Rolex to the PGA Tour itself, but he took out an ad on the back cover to thank all of his sponsors and supporters after his first victory on Tour earlier this year.
This is nothing new. Athletes who have been with a particular team for a long period of time and end up leaving that team on good terms – Roy Halladay leaving the Toronto Blue Jays, or Ray Allen leaving the Boston Celtics for example – have taken out full-page ads in local papers before, but this the first time I’ve seen a professional golfer to do it thank sponsors.
Fowler has a very promising future ahead of him with surely, more victories. Is this something that should be expected each time he wins? I’d hope not.
Among Fowler’s sponsors include a hotel chain (Crowne Plaza), a watch-maker (Rolex), two club manufacturers (Titleist and Cobra), an insurance agency (Farmer’s), a financial services group (Zurich), a media group (Wasserman), a jet manufacturer (Netjets), a car company (Honda), a sport bracelet (Colantotte), an energy drink (Red Bull), a GPS-maker (Bushnell), and finally, a video-game company (EA Sports).
I also hope he has a good accounting firm to help keep all of these companies straight.
Fowler has the unique gift to be able to connect with golf fans and non-golf fans alike and seeing as he is young with a clean image, sponsors come to him hoping for more of the same to continue, and for him to reflect their brands.
At only 23, Fowler is one of the tour’s rising stars. His bright wardrobe has inspired a legion of imitators, and because of his non-golf background – he grew up wanting to be a competitive motocross racer, something he continues to enjoy to this day but finished competing in when he was 14 – he has inspired the PGA Tour to include his likeness in many of it’s new ad campaigns.
Not only is he young, but his multi-racial background is another asset for his sponsors to leverage for success considering how much the game is growing around the world.
For many years, generations of golfers have been inspired by golfers who only need one name to be recognized – Arnie, Jack, Seve, Tiger – but it’s still too soon to know if ‘Rickie’ will be added to that list.
This week, Fowler heads across the pond to tee it up at the British Open, where he looks to build off of his tie for 5th last year. He’ll bring with him a host of supporters, and more fans will meet him there. For now, there’s no slowing down the Fowler juggernaut.
What do you think? Is there a more marketable person in golf than Rickie Fowler?
Adam Stanley is a graduate of the Carleton University Journalism Program, a Digital media Specialist for a Major Corporation, and a regular contributor to Flagstick.com. He maintains a personal Blog “Adam’s Touch” here.