Why golf is experiencing a boom in brand interest

After a two-year hiatus, the RBC Canadian Open is back with a bigger brand lineup than ever before.

RBC Canadian Open - Round Three

By Will Novosedlik

This year, there are strong links between the RBC Canadian Open golf tournament and elevated success.

The only Canadian stop on the PGA tour, the RBC Canadian Open is celebrating its return at St. George’s Golf and Country Club after a pandemic-enforced two-year hiatus. The comeback is seeing a marked increase in corporate interest.

At the last event held in 2019, which took place at the Hamilton Golf and Country Club, Golf Canada had a total of nine corporate partners. This year it has 24. The tournament will boast 234 tents (up 31% from 2019), 210,000 square feet of hospitality and fan activation space compared to 118,587 previously, 10 fan viewing bleachers with more than 2,000 seats – double the number in 2019 – and 37 partner activations, up from 15. Between 2,000 and 2,200 volunteers will be on site. The 2022 event is the largest commercial and operational build in Golf Canada’s history.

John Sibley, chief commercial officer of Golf Canada says its title sponsor RBC is, as always, investing heavily in the tournament. “There is really nobody more vested in golf in Canada,” notes Sibley. In addition to the RBC Canadian Open and the RBC Heritage in the U.S. – both titles of the PGA tour – the company invests in athletes, supports underserved communities through the RBC Community Junior Golf Initiative, and is launching a women’s golf day.

RBC is also the driving force behind adding a musical element to the event with the RBC X music concert series, a program that provides golf and music fans with access to two nights of world class concerts through the purchase of daily golf tickets. This year, RBC has secured Maroon 5 and Flo Rida.

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The increased brand investment in this year’s event is due, in part, to a surge in interest for the game. During the pandemic, golf was one of the few sports that allowed for socially distanced play. As such, existing golfers played more golf and almost half a million people returned to play the game, with a total golfing population in Canada of between five and six million. Additionally, over 200,000 new people joined the sport.

“Interestingly, the majority of new and returning golfers were women,” says Sibley, citing that 65% of new golfers were women, with 70% of them in the 18-34 age group. On average, they played 19 rounds of golf per season. “As a result, the membership ranks of Golf Canada swelled to 300,000 – a 15% growth rate.” These are not only attractive data points for this year’s sponsors, but they also bode well for the future of the game in Canada.

The marketing team behind the RBC Canadian Open and other Golf Canada events reports to Sibley and they handle everything from philanthropic pursuits, to amateur championships, to First Tee, an internationally recognized program that delivers golf as a medium to provide life skills to children.

Golf Canada experienced 60% growth in revenues from 2018 to 2019, and is forecasting similar increases for 2022. Any growth that Golf Canada has from any facet of its business allows it to reinvest in golf, whether it’s to grow the game, its membership or member benefits.

For 2022, returning partners include Titleist, Audi, Foot Joy, Coca Cola, Levelwear (official apparel/merchandising rights), and Hilton. New partners include Ace Beverage Group, BDO, Celebrity Cruises, Johnsonville Sausage, Maestro Dobel Tequila, Marigolds & Onions (event caterer), Masi Wines, Matt and Steve’s Caesars, Cub Cadet (MTD Products), Parkland Fuels, Sargent Farms, Recipe Unlimited, Sirius XM, Sleeman, Stalk and Barrel, theScore Bet and Transitions.