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As Tiger Woods returns to the famous greens of Augusta, the four-time Masters champion is not only bringing a fresh round of excitement to golf but a significant financial impact on nearly every aspect of the game. Coming off back-to-back top five finishes in March, Woods is healthy and playing like his old self and fans can't get enough of it.
Just going to Augusta, Georgia is a bucket list item for most fans but the added allure of seeing one of the best golfers in history is causing tickets to break new price records. "Tiger is a once in a lifetime phenomenon," says Lee Igel, a Clinical Associate Professor at New York University's Tisch Institute for Global Sports. The chance to be a part of that and witness history is driving badge prices up.
According to secondary ticket site TicketIQ, the average price to attend the Masters with a weekly badge is $7,684. That is nearly double last year's average price of $3,722. To attend just a single day of the tournament, the average price is $2,458, making it the second-most expensive Masters over the past 7 years.
"If Tiger is in the hunt on Saturday or Sunday, we could see an uptick similar to last year when prices rose 25% as a result of Sergio Garcia's run," said Jesse Lawrence, CEO of TicketIQ.
Stubhub is seeing similar upward trends. They report a 20 percent increase in overall Masters badge demand, also attributing it to the 14 time major winner's participation.
Television & Sponsors
The mere presence of Tiger Woods at The Masters is also expected to bring a huge bump for sponsors and television networks. Tournament broadcast holders ESPN and CBS will be the beneficiaries here. The Masters has the highest viewership globally of any golf tournament even without Tiger Woods playing, add him to the mix and we could see new viewership records. "When Tiger plays, fans tune in, it's as simple as that," said Jon Stainer, Managing Director of Americas of Nielsen Sports. "His return to fitness and form will see swaths of viewers around the world tune in and increase golf's following dramatically this weekend."
According to Nielsen, network viewership increased 93 percent or by about 2 million more viewers on average during the first four events this season that Woods finished inside the top 25. When Woods finished in the top 5 (the last two events), viewership was up 150% versus the previous year when he was not playing.
For Tiger's endorsers, which include equipment maker TaylorMade, Bridgestone golf balls and Nike apparel, they are getting primetime screen time. During the recent Arnold Palmer Invitational, Woods received 580 minutes of brand exposure according to Nielsen. To put that in perspective, that's more than double the time than the average of the top 10 golfers on the course. Additionally, because the Masters is a "clean course," meaning without advertisements, brands on players and equipment stick out even more giving them even more value.
Bridgestone Golf is one of these beneficiaries. The brand says they have seen a direct bump from Tiger Woods, who signed with the company only recently. Bridgestone says they are experiencing 115% sell through of Bridgestone Golf Tour Balls versus previous years. In response, the golf manufacturer has just come out with its latest product the TOUR B XS Tiger Woods Edition golf balls. The balls feature Tiger's name right on them.
The PGA Superstore, the country's leading golf retailer, is also seeing an uptick. The Atlanta-based company is seeing double-digit comp store sale increases which they attribute to help in part by Woods products selling extremely well. His trademarked TW Nike hat is selling 850% higher compared to this time last year.
When Golf's biggest star is playing, it also helped the sport's participation and overall excitement surrounding golf. "The PGA Tour has a dramatic and direct impact of the popularity of the game," said Steve Mona, World Golf Foundation CEO. Mona says golf is going through an evolution right now, with 24 million people playing the game, the core of golf is stable.
Mona points to the rise of minorities and women in participating in junior golf and sees it as an encouraging sign for the future of the game. "You are going to see the face of golf change over time and we're very encouraged by that."
The key question is has golf become too reliant on Tiger Woods? "Anytime you have a once in a lifetime persona, it's tough to not go down that line," says Igel. However, he points out that if executed properly, leveraging the popularity of Tiger long after his playing days could be key for the golf industry just as the NBA used Jordan to elevate its business.