As the PGA TOUR nears its 50th anniversary in 2018, Hawes reflects on the nearly universal appeal of the brand, which is unlike any other professional sport in the world. “I think what makes the brand so strong is a number of things,” he says. “First of all, we have a product that is viewed on a global level. Our tournaments are broadcast to a hundred million households within the United States and more than 900 million households outside the United States in about 225 countries and translated into 32 different languages.”
Further strengthening the brand’s global appeal is the fact that 84 international players representing 22 countries outside the United States compete in PGA TOUR events. Hawes adds that the integrity and honesty with which the TOUR works with the business community and the communities that host PGA TOUR events is another reason the brand has such a strong resonance with fans and consumers. “[The PGA TOUR is] an entity that creates economic improvement and growth in the communities in which we play,” he says.
With a portfolio of 35 related brands under the PGA TOUR umbrella and strong working relationships with more than 120 global licensees, the PGA TOUR has one of the broadest reaches of any professional sports brand in the world. Hawes says the TOUR continues to focus on innovative ways to bring the brand closer to the fans through new channels and looks forward to some exciting new developments slated to debut this year.
Ensuring that the high standards and reputation of the PGA TOUR are preserved in every licensing effort it makes is Hawes’ biggest challenge, he says. Working with so many different licensees across so many different product and service categories can be a daunting task even for a brand as established as the PGA TOUR, but Hawes says it works tirelessly to ensure its message is consistent across all channels.
Working with IMG Licensing, the PGA TOUR has developed a strong program designed to keep its retail licensing efforts consistently effective no matter what the channel. “The PGA TOUR has a brand standards portfolio that has a ‘good/better/best’ approach to where our brand is positioned at retail, and it takes a lot of energy and focus to make sure we have the right branding with the right partners in the right channels,” Hawes says.
That level of cohesion is essential when one stops to consider the sheer scope of the PGA TOUR’s retail licensing efforts. “We’ve probably got anywhere from 20 to 25 projects aggressively in the works at any one time across a wide variety of channels,” Hawes says.
Among the most exciting new branded initiatives to be introduced in 2014 by the PGA TOUR is the opening of its first-ever PGA TOUR Grill location at San Diego International Airport. The TOUR has teamed up with HMSHost, the largest foodservice operator in the airport sector, to introduce a chain of PGA TOUR-themed restaurants in airports across the country. Hawes says these restaurants will distinguish themselves from the typical airport dining options by concentrating on healthy choices and low-calorie meals made with fresh ingredients.
“At the same time, it will give us an opportunity to deliver our golf-centric content to our fans in the airport in a sport-centric way,” Hawes adds. “So we’re very excited about that.” The San Diego location opened in early May, with three to four additional locations opening later this year. Hawes says the PGA TOUR hopes to have 15 to 20 PGA TOUR Grill locations in operation within the next three to four years.
Another new initiative being launched by the PGA TOUR this year is its first-ever line of branded casual shoes. Hawes says that these shoes – produced in a partnership with footwear manufacturer ACI International – are not intended to be worn on the golf course but rather before and after golfing. He says the PGA TOUR is excited to be moving into an entirely new facet of footwear through this partnership. “We believe that because of our demographic, because of their affinity to our brand and because of the quality of the product that is going to be delivered by ACI, that this is going to be a significant licensing program for us,” Hawes says.
Also on the horizon in the near future for the PGA TOUR is a line of consumer electronics from US Digital Media, including earbuds, flash drives and cell phone cases. The TOUR also recently signed an agreement with a company to develop a chain of branded PGA TOUR stores in the Philippines. Closer to home, Hawes says the PGA TOUR Superstores chain of retail locations has experienced growth in the digital realm as well as on the brick-and-mortar side. He says the TOUR expects the number of stores to jump from fewer than 20 to 40 in the next three years, with another 40 stores expected to open in the three years after that.
The PGA TOUR’s global reach will be felt even more strongly in the near future, as it recently launched three new golf tours in Canada, Latin America and China. Hawes says these indicate the growth of the brand as well as the enthusiasm golfers and fans around the world have for the PGA TOUR. With that kind of momentum, the PGA TOUR has good reason to be optimistic about the future. “PGA TOUR tournaments are truly an extraordinary global product,” Hawes says.