How the Masters Leaves Millions on the Table

(Bloomberg) -- The Masters, golf’s most exclusive tournament, has long avoided the commercial opportunities that most global sporting events covet.

Media rights? They’re given to CBS Corp. each year on a handshake agreement that’s rumored to be well below market value. Corporate sponsors? There are only three -- Mercedes-Benz, IBM and AT&T -- and they pay just enough to cover CBS’s costs. Even the tournament food lacks the typical sports markup.

The result: The Augusta National Golf Club, the tournament’s organizer, potentially leaves millions of dollars on the table each year. But there is a benefit to the approach, according to Nielsen, which studied last year’s telecast. Augusta’s own brand enjoys far more media exposure than what other golf tournaments get, including the other three majors.

Nielsen found that of the $211 million in exposure generated from the four-day competition, about 39 percent, or $83 million went back to Augusta. That exposure stems from logos, the course itself, caddie apparel, hole pin flags and verbal mentions by broadcasters.

The other $128 million goes to the limited commercial time awarded to the three sponsors, plus the brand logos on players’ hats, shirts and equipment.

Tournament telecastOverall media value generatedValue for tournament brandPercent of total for tournament brand
The Masters$211,437,967$82,662,10639%
British Open$181,109,081$39,317,98222%
PGA Championship$125,163,730$43,425,61235%
U.S. Open$137,593,230$21,577,81616%
Source: Nielsen

“The Masters is one of the most unique events in all of sports,” said Jon Stainer, managing director of Nielsen Sports Americas. “It’s one in which sponsor brands have a very minimal presence -- on the course, in the concessions area and even within the TV broadcast. Still the degree of brand exposure generated throughout the broadcast is significant, but primarily for the Masters brand.”

If the Masters chose to sell sponsorship on the caddie bibs and hats, for example, that company would see about $4.9 million in exposure from the broadcast, according to Nielsen’s numbers. Putting sponsors on the pin flags would generate $385,000.

This year’s Masters, which runs through Sunday, also will benefit from the presence of Tiger Woods. The golf star has won the tournament’s green jacket four times, and fans will tune in to see if he nabs a fifth.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.