Let’s start with this: The WNBA’s orange hoodie is pretty sweet.
When LeBron James and a host of other NBA players put it on, the sweatshirt sold like hotcakes. The social media campaign, seeded by ESPN to push the WNBA’s Opening Day, featured the likes of Trae Young, Ja Morant, Victor Oladipo and Lil Wayne.
ESPN reported that the #OrangeHoodie effort garnered 16.4K mentions on Twitter with over 623 million potential impressions. That kind of NBA player support surely contributed to the 63 percent increase in TV ratings over the 2019 WNBA regular season average. ESPN promptly added 13 WNBA games to its lineup. The orange hoodie was the top-selling item on Fanatics.com over the weekend.
Golf can learn so much from this hoodie.
The LPGA restarts its season on Friday at the historic Inverness Club in Ohio and wouldn’t it be something if PGA Tour stars showed a similar kind of support?
Many of these players grew up on the AJGA circuit together, teaming up for events like the Wyndham Cup and Junior Ryder Cup. They formed bonds during college golf and belong to the same Arizona and Florida clubs. When the U.S. Opens were held back-to-back at Pinehurst, Rickie Fowler and Keegan Bradley gave Michelle Wie their yardage books and she won.
Yet, despite all of these relationships and mutual respect, there’s little public support. And, as the NBA showed, it’s really not that heavy of a lift. (With the exception of Kyrie Irving’s stunning $1.5 million donation to support WNBA players who opted to sit out the season. That was epic.)
“NBA players have always been incredibly supportive of the WNBA,” said WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert. “What I appreciate most is that there is great admiration between the NBA and WNBA athletes that comes from an authentic place.”
In 2016, the PGA Tour and LPGA entered into a strategic alliance agreement. The PGA Tour actually negotiates the LPGA’s television rights. An organized social media strategy between the two tours and Golf Channel would certainly add much-needed hype for the women’s game.
Cameras are often in the parking lot at big events, following players as they walk into the clubhouse in street clothes. What if a Ryder Cup player rocked a Solheim Cup shirt? This week’s LPGA Drive On Championship is actually at the site of the 2021 Solheim Cup.
What if PGA Tour girl dads posted picture of themselves watching LPGA coverage with their daughters or sported LPGA*USGA Girls Golf T-shirts?
Not everything should be planned, of course. It’s possible that many of the PGA Tour stars don’t realize how much of an impact they could have on the women’s game if they posted a video of the female pros they meet on the course in their social media feeds. If a PGA Tour player boasts about an LPGA player’s swing, it lends tremendous credibility to a tour that recently endured a twitter conversation about whether or not a male 4-handicapper could beat the best female players in the world.
Be the kind of influencer that grows all of golf, not just your personal brand.
For a shining example of this, look no further than Justin Rose, who not only put money into women’s British golf this summer, but lent his name too. The Rose Ladies Series created an opportunity for women who had no place to compete during COVID-19. Rose’s impact, however, goes well beyond the creation of one-day tournaments.
“It’s not just the events being created and the platform for us,” said LET winner Meghan MacLaren. “It’s the entire conversation around it. It’s a conversation we’ve been having endlessly in the female game, but the simple fact is even collectively, our voices aren’t as loud as a top male player… that’s just the world we’ve been living in.”
The women need more allies.
“When I was commissioner, it was Dwight Howard, Chris Paul, they were at games, Dwyane Wade,” said Donna Orender, who prior to leading the WNBA was a vice president at the PGA Tour. “We didn’t have to call to invite them, they naturally came.”
For this to work, there must be a culture shift on the men’s side. Golf wins when women rise. Use the synergy of shared corporate sponsors, shared alma maters, shared majors (PGA/USGA) and shared venues as common ground to promote and celebrate.
The sports calendar remains light now, which means now is the time to attract new fans. If a PGA Tour player is enjoying the LPGA coverage on Golf Channel, he should tell the world about it.
And get the man a hoodie!