What can sport businesses learn from "Bryson DeChambeau´s" brand?
Updated: Feb 3
The sport of golf has surprisingly experienced remarkable growth in the aftermaths of the pandemic. As this article by Front Office Sports reports, during the past few months there have been several moves that proof the health of the overall industry, where the following stand out:
The number of people who have picked up golf for the first time is at record numbers in both the United States & Europe.
There have been significant mergers & acquisitions during this time. Callaway´s merge with Topshot (in which Callaway paid $2.66 billion to fully take over the brand) and Centroid Investment Partners´ acquisition of TaylorMade Golf for $1.7 billion, (considered at the time the largest acquisition ever in the golf goods industry) lead the way.
New technologies and start-ups are emerging and looking to disrupt the industry, with Private Equity firms are taking good notice. Just look at Full Swing, an AI based golf course experience to be practiced in indoor spaces, being acquired by Bruin Capital Management.
Even from a video game perspective, the sport is witnessing outstanding performance. Back in February 2021, Take-Two´s CEO (The brand that develops the 2K franchises), showed huge optimism for the 2K Golf franchise in the upcoming years:
"In terms of the PGA TOUR 2K, we are incredibly excited about that the performance of that title. And I'd like to say that, that we're not surprised. (...) And we're just really getting started. (...) And that's something that we can really turn into very profitable and exciting franchise for us going forward for many years."
Bryson DeChambeau & the lessons businesses can learn from his brand
Shifting over to the pro athletes of the sport, Bryson DeChambeau is undoubtedly one of the most recognized players in the world. Regardless of what you may feel about him as a player does not hide the fact that there are many lessons that businesses can learn from him and apply to their own brand. In this post, we will share some of those lessons as well as a few potential commercial opportunities that could make sense for him in search for further growth "on the business side."
You need a great product worth talking about: The results speak for themselves and, for several years now, Bryson has consistently been at the top of the rankings of the sport. Since 2015, he has participated in 132 events and has made the cut in 95 of them (72% of them) and 2021 in particular has been an amazing season for him, in which he has participated in 22 PGA Tour events, has made the cut 12 times and classified within the top 10 in 9 of those events.
Focus on the "metrics that matter:" One of the key metrics that pro golfers focus on is "Strokes Gained," which was initially developed by Professor Mark Broadie of Columbia University (By the way, listen to this awesome episode of Freakonomics to learn more about the story behind it). As explained by the PGA: "strokes gained is considered a better method for measuring performance because it compares a player's performance to the rest of the field and because it can isolate individual aspects of the game."
An example may help clarify the concept: A player will gain three strokes on the field if he shoots 69 on a day when the field averages 72. A player who shoots 74 on that day loses two strokes to the field.
DeChambeau has developed a unique method and approach to the game and he decided to tackle that metric in a way the players had not done before. His data driven approach took him to adopt a style based on "power," in which he looks to gain an advantage in the first strokes of the hole and get closer to the cup, even if that means sacrificing fairways or greens along the way.
In other words, he made a deliberate choice (which is what "strategy" is essentially all about) on "how to play" the game of golf in search of an advantage vs other players.
We could even argue that DeChambeau created a new category: "Power-based & data driven golf," which even earned him a nickname, The Scientist, among the other players.
While his style of play initially drew him a lot of criticism for breaking the status quo ("Golf has never been played like this before") the results obviously made the market notice. Other players, (the competition) even started to try and copy his style of play.
This is common practice in market dynamics across industries. An incumbent agent disrupts the space, draws initial criticism from the market for trying to play the game "differently," but once the brand gains significant market share (trophies, prize money, etc.), competitors rush to try to adopt similar tactics and methodologies.
This approach though, does not usually work well for them; Rory Mcllroy publicly admitted a few a months ago, that he had failed at trying to embrace several elements of Bryson´s style of play.
At the end of the day, it is not about imitating a set of features from the competition. The whole strategy & process is what makes the difference.
Bryson´s external branding elements (the packaging) also stands out vs the other players with the "driver cap" being the most recognizable garment he wears on a regular basis.
Even his sponsorship strategy can be considered somewhat unique as proven by the partnership he signed with Draftkings in November 2020. As it was reported by Sports Pro Media back then: "DeChambeau, 27, will be the first active professional golfer to represent DraftKings, while he will also be the first to wear a logo of a sports betting or fantasy sports company during the Masters."
It should be no surprise that Bryson also embraces a "different" style of communication vs other players; after all, this is being coherent with what his brands represents. Three elements standout:
Social Media: While he has established a presence in "usual" platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, DeChambeau also has his own Twitch channel and Tik Tok profile.
This is an approach that many successful brands take: Once they have an audience in popular platforms, they test out new channels in search of engagement with new fans / customers as a mean to amplify the reach of the brand.
Content strategy: Across his social platforms, his language (tone of voice) has a certain flair to it, is somewhat provocative and is certainly coherent with his brand image.
From our point of view, this Instagram post represents quite well his approach to content. One would not see a "classic" golf player carrying out this type of content.
Messaging & Language: Owning a certain language within a category is another key element for brands who look to stand out. In Bryson´s case, he takes a radical approach also on his website; he probably is the only golf player that compares himself to Einstein:
Much like Einstein and Washington – innovators celebrated for how they stood out and capitalized on their creativity – DeChambeau uses wedges and irons of equal length (37.5 inches, the average length of his favorite 7-iron), precise force, and pinpoint distance measurements in his play.
Market rivalries: Even his famous feud with Brooks Koepka during 2020 can be seen within the frame of the overall marketing strategy. Golf is and has always been perceived as a "gentleman´s sport," so it definitely comes out as a shock when two players "go at it" publicly for several weeks. And, while we necessarily don´t see it as an overall "positive" for the game, it should not be surprising he was one of the players involved. But guess what? this type of content drives even higher engagement, especially among younger audiences (In similar fashion to the feuds we see in WWE).
Bryson developed a different approach to the game (which competitors have not been able to copy), performed against what was considered the norm and developed a unique brand, language and messaging strategy.
Opportunities for the future: Taking the Bryson DeChambeau brand to another level
As we usually do in other posts, we want to share a few commercial opportunities that would take Bryson´s brand to another level. This time around, given Bryson´s unique and somewhat extravagant profile, we have stretched these opportunities a little bit farther than usual and not settle for the obvious:
Become Tonal´s brand ambassador: Bryson has worked hard on his physique over the years and is one of the landmark characteristics that define his game. Given the rise of connected fitness services, it would be interesting to see him become brand ambassador for Tonal, the connected strength training equipment.
Tonal has been one of the emerging players in the fitness industry and given their rounds of investment, they could look into new sponsorship agreements to reach new audiences. Moreover, given their "premium positioning," targeting the golf fan (perceived as a consumer with higher purchasing power) could open up new growth opportunities.
Partnership with Gymshark: This partnership would surely be a game changer. We are not used to seeing a golf player working out in the gym, but it would be an interesting take to try and drive younger audiences to the game of golf, through a disruptive sports apparel brand.
The game of golf in general is trying to draw new audiences to the game. Proof of this is the recent partnership with Steph Curry to create content during the Ryder Cup or the matches Phil Mickelson organizes with superstars from other sports (including Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, or Aaron Rodgers). The interesting thing about golf is that many sport & pop culture celebrities love to play the game, so, a good way to drive attention to the game is to explore further "Pro Am" matches between players like Bryson and the likes of Gareth Bale, JJ Redick, or Rafael Nadal (who all seem to excel in the golf course).
Additionally, given his current image within the circuit as "the bad guy," popularity and physique, perhaps Bryson could even consider a brief WWE cameo? We could argue Bryson is to golf what Trae Young is to the NBA, and Trae has already made his debut in wrestling. This would be the ultimate "bad boy" move (big guy, the golf club, etc.)
It would not be surprising to see Bryson being one of the first golf properties to embrace NFTs, following the trends of the overall sports industry. How could this work out for him? Well, if we follow Gary Vaynerchuk´s approach, in which he is creating physical events for those who supported his NFT project, Bryson could launch a series of NFTs with his best highlights (think NBA Top Shot) and perhaps organize events for those who hold them. For instance, playing a round of golf with him, a masterclass on the driving range, or getting limited edition merchandise from him or his sponsors.
Identify your "how to win" proposition and find your unique spot in the market
All in all, Bryson DeChambeau, as a brand, can be a great example for businesses looking to differentiate in competitive markets. He capitalized on his strengths (a talent for golf and his data analysis skills) to tackle the metric that matters, matched them against the competition (the other players) and found a unique spot in the market.
Then, after his core brand elements were defined, he developed consistently against them and developed a coherent messaging and commercial strategy around it.
Ultimately though, his performance (having a great product) is what ensures his relevance over time. Without it, the entire business operation would not be worth much so make sure all your efforts start by optimizing your product or service.
We hope this post was of value and, if you are looking to take your sport business, apparel brand or fitness service to the next level, don´t hesitate to get in touch and lets make it happen!