Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Sexy golf, the LPGA and the BGA?

In a recent, unrelated post, some comments were made about the LPGA needing some kind of shot to the arm to increase viewership and interest. While those comments were focused more on the influence of Korean golfers, it seems to me that the "problem" is more fundamental and rests with the fans.

I think it's a shame that women golfers have to market themselves to the calendar crowd in order to bolster the viewership. It may be a shame, but at this point, it’s probably necessary. You don't see this happening with the men. I certainly don't want to see a half naked Singh or Daly, but I love to watch them golf.

Keep your shirt on. Photo from the Augusta Chronicle.

If we really want the LPGA to grow, we need more good players. If it gets to the point that only the beautiful ones get endorsement packages and the accompanying support that goes with them, regular looking but talented girls will be discouraged from pursuing the sport as a profession. Herein lies the catch-22: the purses are too small (though growing) to inspire the same kind of dedication in female golfers as male golfers. To increase the prize money, we need to generate more revenue. To generate more revenue, what do we need? Better golf or better-looking golf?

The LPGA is an association for professional athletes, not beauty queens. That some of them are stunning ought to be a bonus, not the focus. By focusing on the cover-model golfers, we're kind of growing the interest while narrowing the field with irrelevant standards. One place to start would be with a sponsor (say, Nike) endorsing and promoting the hell out of a good golfer with an interesting personality but maybe not the best looking (say, Christina Kim, or better yet, someone more obscure that we don’t know yet). There’s a saying that “it takes money to make money.” How about some sponsors investing some serious dough for the purses to make it really interesting? And investing in some good golfers to make it about an athletic competition instead of a golf event as the talent portion of some beauty pageant?

It's the age old dilemma... the media show us what they think we want to see because they want our money. We buy their products because it's what's there. Sure, sex sells but so does talent.

Maybe we need an entirely new Association – the BGA (Beautiful Golfers Association) for men and women. We can have a panel that selects the talent (ahem) and they all compete against one another for huge prize money. And we can have judges decide who wins. It wouldn’t be entirely based on score, either - that would just be one segment of the judging. Okay, maybe it’s not an association to rival the PGA and LPGA… it’s more of a bad reality show. But admit it – you’d watch. And it just might stigmatize the selling of sexiness in the LPGA enough to put the focus back on golf there.

I started this by saying that the "problem" might rest with the fans. But only because we're buying what they're selling. Will we buy an LPGA that's about golf?

Next post.


mediaguru said...

I don't think increasing the purses would increase the fan base or the viewers of the LPGA. I think those few who do watch golf want to see the best golfers in the world hit the most amazing shots under the most pressure packed situation.

There is no Tiger Woods on the LPGA Tour but perhaps Wie can come as close as a female might be to him. That remains to be seen since she hasn't WON a tournament yet.

Golfchick said...

I think increasing the purses would entice more golfers, which would improve the field of competition, which would increase the fan base.

Bryan said...

I agree that the LPGA should not turn into a beauty pagent but you can not argue with the fact that since many of the new faces are quite a bit nicer to look at than what was out there 5 or 6 years ago, the audience has expanded. I notice you showed John Daily in this post I would guess almost as a comical side, but JohnD has a down home quality to him that seems to transcend the fact that he is not the 'model' golfer. I don't think the LPGA has that, they have nice look at and not so nice. IMHO

JFB said...

IMO, the LPGA is on a roll.

The PGA is successfully shooting itself in the foot by creating an exclusive schedule that eventually will only be pandered by the top players.
To add further pain, these smaller tournaments will be eliminated by a (it will happen) shortened schedule.
Fans, and abandoned tournament locations, will soon look to other avenues of golf competition and town revenue.

As long as the LPGA continues to be increasingly accessible to its fan base, it will by default, continue to grow and prosper.


William K. Wolfrum said...

Martina Navratilova just called and said she agrees 100 percent.

One issue, is of course, individuality. If Natalie Gulbis wants to parade in a bikini for a calendar, why shouldn't she be allowed to?

My thoughts on this right now is that the LPGA is at a very good spot. Annika is one of the best ever and the South Korean girls keep pushing the bar.

Plus, the young guns like Creamer, Pressell, Gulbis, Ochoa are all showing they have serious game, as well as media-friendly looks.

And then Michelle Wie is very likely going to set the whole tour on fire soon enough.

I really think with the group they have and the new players arriving, the LPGA has a chance to profoundly change women's sports. Whether they do it remains to be seen.


Will said...

Thoughtful post, lot's of there there. Takes the focus off race, which seems right. The future of the LPGA is not assured, it could go either way. Can it succeed through golf talent alone? Maybe. But the most salient point made by golfchick is that growth can be best promoted by the active involvement of corporate sponsors, with the goal of expanding the talent pool, which would most likely produce a number of female golfers amenable to promotion, and the cycle would become self-propagating.

Often, in order to achieve a desirable result, a spark is needed. Things don't happen by themselves. But this long-term view is certainly more workable than trying short-term fixes.

NothingMan said...

Dang. You had me until the BGA. I was expecting maybe, Beer Gut Association for Daly.

It looks to me like the LPGA is on a good roll, for sure, but I do have to agree that it seems like sex is selling a lot of it.

Regardless of how it is marketed, or how it is structured, there will just always be a few women that are more attractive, and the public and the press will instantly brand them as the sex symbols. That's the American way, it seems.

Anonymous said...

Why pay to see ordinary golf? I will pay to see gorgeous ordinary golf! There's no marketing within the female personalities, the Asian women want no part of the media (minus the money, of course)or the fans, ask me who I would rather watch, Juli Inskster or Erica Blasberg, even SI knows the answer to that one and your still scratching your head -- Well, keep on scratching because you just don't get it!!

Stacy said...

Men mostly watch golf on television. You will probably find more women on a golf course than sitting in front of a television watching it.

This is why most women golfers had better be nice to look at. I mean, how many men are watching the LPGA and rooting for Laura Davies?

Miranda said...

I think if there was more mainstream promotion of the women golfers then you would attract a bigger audience. The women should be doing interviews on Regis and Kelly and the View and Martha and shows like that. I watch men's golf not necessarily to see great golf (because I don't play golf) but to see how the players I know something about do that week. And if I see great golf in the process then great. The women don't have to do bikini calendars to get noticed, they just have to do something outside of playing the event.

Anonymous said...

I really think the problem is the same for the LPGA, WNBA etc. not enough women watch woman's sports. I do think this will change as more and more woman are involved with sports at a younger age.
Encourage more women to watch sports especially the women's leagues. I feel blaming men is a little misleading.

Anonymous said...

I still can not understand why Natalie Gulbis is not doing Mercedes commercials, Oh yeah, that's right NO EXPOSURE, NO MARKETING, no organization within the LPGA to platform these ladies into the spot light, I also think the women are afraid of or do not want to have controversy when the issue of exposure is raised within the womens different ranks and appearance wise, their are many, just ask Cristie Kerr, whose arrogant attitude is one of the many reasons why the LPGA is still minor league.