Munich in November 2022: Bavaria’s capital is in football fever. Seven-time Super Bowl winner and GOAT Tom Brady will be playing with his Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the Allianz Arena against the Seattle Seahawks, who are enormously popular here in Germany. The hype is gigantic. For days, egg reigns on the streets and in the pubs. Three million tickets could have been sold; in the end, 69,811 spectators watch the first National Football League (NFL) game in Germany.
Four NFL teams share Germany
This year, the spectacle is to be repeated twice: again in Munich and in Frankfurt. The Kansas City Chiefs, led by wonder playmaker Patrick Mahomes, will be the reigning champions, along with the New England Patriots. Their opponents have not yet been determined, but these two names are already set. Because they are “designated teams”, they own Germany.
And now? The keyword is IHMA, which stands for International Home Marketing Area. The background to this is the complex franchise system under which the major U.S. team sports operate. The NFL holds the rights to the league, and issues licenses to operate and market a team. So far, all marketing has been limited to a radius of 75 miles around the location of the respective team, which guarantees a unique position on one’s own doorstep.
Kansas City, Patriots, Tampa Bay, Carolina
On January 1, 2022, the existing Home Area Marketing (HMA) rule was expanded to include an international component: The 32 NFL teams were allowed to apply to expand their activities to the United Kingdom, Brazil, Canada, China, Mexico and Germany. Kansas City, New England, Tampa Bay and the Carolina Panthers developed corresponding concepts and received exclusive permission to conduct marketing in this country.
“When we talk about international markets, Germany has always had the most passionate American football fans,” Patriots owner Robert Kraft said at the time, pleased with the win. “The IHMA initiative creates many more opportunities to reach out and engage our international fan base,” said “Bucs” owner Joel Glazer in turn. “Now we can build long-term relationships with these international markets that will play a big role in the continued growth and expansion of our sport in the years to come.”
And what does that have to do with golf? A lot. Because those responsible for the LIV Golf League have looked beyond the game and copied a lot from the successful American football model. No wonder, since CEO Greg Norman’s team included two top managers with proven NFL DNA, Atul Khosla and Matt Goodman, who have since retired.
Both are likely to have been important figures for the LIV business model and played a significant role in the development of the envisaged franchise system. The head office issues licenses and takes care of the big picture, the teams find their own owners, investors, sponsors, market themselves, even build their own venues and become self-sufficient in the medium term. Money is paid for participation in the LIV Golf product and for participation in the games organized by the league.
With that, the Saudis will eventually get their return on investment and a prospect of profit, after providing $2 billion in start-up funding and having “zero revenue” at least by 2022, according to LIV lawyers. So much for the plan to open a new, unprecedented chapter of commercialization for golf with this construct.
Market fixation instead of mother tongue coincidence
And when the twelve teams for the second season of the LIV League, which begins next week in Mayakoba, Mexico, and their protagonists are presented in tidbits, there are striking constellations that only superficially have something to do with friendships or compatriots and other ethnic similarities.
Teams such as Fireballs, Crushers, Rippers, Stingers or Torque could be arranged on the world map in a similar way to the football franchises on the NFL chart shown earlier. This is by no means a native coincidence, but a clear market fixation. In their composition, they focus quite clearly on a specific geographic mode of operation; the captains specifically tailor the personnel constellation in the team to their own continent of origin or a desired target market.
LIV Golf: DeChambeau first to recognize potential
Bryson DeChambeau, for all his quirkiness undoubtedly a bright mind, was the first to recognize this and brought the Indian Anirban Lahiri into his Crushers crew as early as 2022 to join Paul Casey and Charles Howell III. For BDC is eyeing the golf potential of the subcontinent: “You don’t just bring in players as sporting reinforcements, but also to use their notoriety for commercial purposes,” the “Mad Scentist” pontificated months ago. “Anirban is a real force in India. With him, we want to help grow golf there by building driving ranges and maybe even courses.” With DeChambeau, the token narrative of “Growing the Game” at least takes on substance.
South Africa, South America, Australia, Latin America
The personnel portfolio can be declined at will with this factor. Louis Oosthuizen has currently secured the services of compatriot Dean Burmester and, with his all-South African stinger GC, naturally has his sights set on home. Chilean Joaquín Niemann is also clearly targeting South America with Torque and LIV newcomers Mito Pereira (Chile) and Sebastián Muñoz (Colombia), while Spain’s David Puig is back in fourth place. Cam Smith and his Aussie ripper combo with Marc Leishman and Matt Jones are looking to shake things up Down Under. The Fireballs around Sergio Garcia, Abraham Ancer and Carlos Ortiz (both Mexico) as well as Garcia’s Iberian compatriot Eugenio Chacarra, appeal – even in the literal sense – to Latin America.
Wiesberger at Kaymer’s Cleeks
Where Martin Kaymer with the Cleeks and Graeme McDowell, Richard Bland as well as recently Bernd Wiesberger and the three-captain team Majesticks of Henrik Stenson, Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood (with Sam Horsfield) tend, need not be mentioned explicitly. The rest mainly divides the US market among themselves, first and foremost defending champion 4Aces GC with individual dominator Dustin Johnson, Patrick Reed, Pat Perez and Peter Uihlein, who replaces the sorted out Talor Gooch. When Phil Mickelson, Kevin Na and Bubba Watson are the last to announce their tableau for HyFlyers, Iron Heads and the renamed RangeGoats today, the pattern is likely to continue.
Rumors about LIV-weary Brooks Koepka
That leaves Smash GC, where Matthew Wolff replaces the departing Uihlein, and the rumors surrounding team boss Brooks Koepka. The four-time major winner has never made a secret of the fact that he prefers the money of the LIV League to the merits of the PGA Tour merely because of injury-related sporting uncertainty, but he is now enjoying good health again and having corresponding fun with the game.