Case Study

Ryder Cup

Challenge: another championship in a sea of trophies

The Shield: an authentic, no holds barred on the world’s stage

Flexibility: designed to showcase the history, event and host

The Ryder Cup is a men's golf competition between teams from Europe and the United States. The competition is contested every two years with the venue alternating between the very best courses in the United States and Europe. 

The event is jointly administered by the PGA of America and Ryder Cup Europe, the latter a joint venture of the PGA European Tour (60%), the PGA of Great Britain and Ireland (20%), and the PGAs of Europe (20%).

The emotional, 3-day event is considered by golf zealots as the pinnacle of the sport. For 72 hours the game pivots to different formats where fans passionately follow their respective teams and take every opportunity to express their national loyalty and showcase bragging rights. Ryder Cup’s appeal:

  • 37 events spanning across a 90+ year history
  • Deep roots in the traditions of golf
  • A unique format that intensifies the drama, competitiveness and energy of the competition
  • An event that has evolved with decades of personalities and stories
  • A strong connection to the event with players and golf zealots
  • Positive associations with fans that are familiar with and/or experience the event (e.g., the Olympics of golf)
  • Commercial appeal for corporate partners and hosts (clubs, countries, cities, etc.)

Maximizing value in a category with declining engagement

Overall golf is in decline and there is a concern that the owners of the Ryder Cup were properly protecting/growing the value of their asset. There were three significant challenges and trends:

  • Declining and competing interests – declining participation in golf and club membership as well as declining Ryder Cup TV ratings 
  • The President’s Cup – a younger generation of fans growing up with the President’s Cup with a new generation of top players emerging from geographies outside of the United States and Europe
  • Managing the Ryder Cup brand – an inconsistent and undifferentiated visual expression of the Ryder Cup, differing Ryder Cup sponsorship agreements between the PGA of America and the European Tour, and conflicts between player sponsors and Ryder Cup sponsors

Sharpening the brand focus

Based on research with owners of the brand as well as players and fans, there were brand priorities and experiences that needed to be elevated:

  • Generate excitement and act as a catalyst for interest in golf
  • Evolve with a younger generation of audiences - fans and players
  • Bring clarity and consistency to its definition and expression across both geographies
  • Emphasize distinctive aspects that will strongly differentiate it from The President’s Cup, golf events and other iconic sporting events
    • Playing for more than the money (authenticity grounded in tradition, honor and respect)
    • Novelty within sport (format and team approach)
    • Head-to-head (rather than player vs course)
    • Camaraderie (collective marches up the hill)
    • Outward emotion (feeding off of the fan electricity)

Players and fans drive the success of the Ryder Cup

To get full engagement of players, the fans play a vital role. By capturing the emotions from fans and the electricity of big moments, players are motivated to become immortalized by a branded event that is bigger than the Olympics, super bowl or major championship. With the fan and player dynamic, new entrants such as causal fans or average golfers will be attracted and ultimately the host countries and clubs will gain in both brand recognition and additional tourist revenues. But to achieve this loop, a consistent brand experience will need to be promoted, executed and supported - before, during and after the event.

The final brand platform and rollout was built on legendary experiences that were cemented in:

  • a storied history of memorable moments that become the pinnacle of a golfer’s career
  • sportsmanship at the highest level where the Ryder Cup is bigger than any individual
  • performing on the world’s stage where everyone is on the edge of their seat, anticipating every match, shot, breath and celebration

Extension: adaptable to individual teams and localized events

Partnership: compliments and enhances the world’s leading brands

Presence: the brand lives before, during and after the event

Electric: the brand feeds off of the highly charged atmosphere