Fresh off another successful trip down to Augusta for the Masters, thought I’d take my Five For Friday space to share a few observations and insights. The boys down at Augusta National have done an admirable job creating and maintaining a revered brand for many years.
1. Scarcity Sells: No matter which poll you read, a ticket to the Masters is easily the most difficult get in all of sports. There are no tickets for public sale and those who do get “badges” are usually on a long waiting list and connected to existing Augusta National members and their families. Tournament officials don’t publish the amount of badges produced nor do they post attendance numbers. However, the tournament has been sold out for something crazy like 40 years straight. If you go the broker route, you’re looking at spending an absurd amount of cash.
2. Disrupt The Norm: I travel around to a lot of professional golf tournaments and there is a consistent look and feel to them all: digital video boards all over the place, rows and rows of tented hospitality venues, and a barrage of corporate signage at every turn. Head down to Augusta and it’s like a time warp. Although there are a few private hospitality venues on course, they are all hidden behind trees, completely out of view for TV cameras and general passers-by. You won’t find any corporate branding and the only signage is hand-controlled.
3. It Takes Two To Tango: Though the Augusta National old boys network is known for doing things however they damn well please, they also understand the value of a quality partnership. Unlike most other sports properties and events, which aim to sell every inch of every asset available to corporate sponsors, the Masters only has three official partners. All three are blue chip brands and are the only advertisers on the Masters television broadcast (CBS drew a 6.8 on its Saturday showing this year).
4. Small Moves, Big Impact: You wouldn’t think such a powerful brand would by synonymous with old school ways and a well-known lack of innovation. They do it their way and every move is made in the name of “tradition”. This approach has two results; a clear brand identity and the magnification of any steps they take toward innovation. As an example, the Masters recently announced its deal with EA Sports to be featured in the 2012 edition of Tiger Woods PGA TOUR video game. This is the first time gamers will have the opportunity to play Augusta National and it was monumental news. As of today, the video game had its largest first week of sales in its 14-year history and the iPad version was the top grossing sports game in the Apple app store during launch week.
5. Back It Up: I’ve mentioned how important protecting its tradition is to the Masters and no time is that more evident than when a patron dares to break one of the many tournament rules. This isn’t like most pro golf tourneys – you’re told not to have your cell phone on you, but everyone knows they are all too easy to sneak in. At the Masters, if you’re caught with a cell phone or camera, you are in BIG trouble. Augusta National authorities will take you directly to what we call “Augusta Jail”. Not too unlike the principal’s office in high school, you’ll get reprimanded with a tongue lashing and stern looks, typically followed by revocation of your Masters badges and a lifetime ban from the tournament. Their policy is far from lip service – I’ve seen several people escorted off the grounds never to return.