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‘Brand power’ drives players’ future earnings, Duff & Phelps study finds

4.20pm 3rd June 2021 - Sponsorship & Events - This story was updated on Friday, June 4th, 2021

Duff & Phelps, one of the world’s leading risk valuation advisors, has released the second edition of its Professional Golfers’ Future Career Value Study, a ranking of male professional golfers by their expected future earnings. 

The study, which was conducted by the firm’s Valuation Advisory Services practice, evaluated over 1,000 professional golfers and ranked the top 60 current players based on their Future Career Value (FCV), which reflects the present value of golfers’ projected tour winnings, endorsement income and estimated earnings from the PGA Tour’s newly formed incentive plan, the Player Impact Program (PIP). 

While Phil Mickelson’s recent victory at the PGA Championship makes him the oldest golfer to win a major, and proves golfers over 50 can still have significant value both on and off the course, Duff & Phelps has chosen to focus on players’ value up until their 50th birthday.

Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy topped the leaderboard for the second year in a row with a projected FCV of $401 million, about a third more than current world no.2 Justin Thomas, the next-ranked golfer who once again claimed the second spot.

Eight of the top 10 FCV leaderboard were also in the top 10 last year, with rising Norwegian star Viktor Hovland and 2020 PGA Championship winner Collin Morikawa being the only new entrants. 

The total FCV of the top 10 increased by 14% from $1.89 billion last year to $2.15 billion in 2021, primarily due to the addition of the PGA Tour’s new Player Impact Program. Launched in April 2021, the PIP recognises players’ brand power for the sport and ability to create value on and off the course and splits a $40 million bonus annually among the top 10 players with the highest ‘impact score’.

The study found that brand power plays a critical role in FCV, as only one-third of professional golfers’ earnings will come from tournament winnings over their careers, with the rest coming from endorsement deals. This finding, paired with the bonuses handed out through the PIP, highlights a potential divergence between current top performers and the sport’s top earners. For example, Tiger Woods is unlikely to play this season due to health issues, yet still draws high fan and sponsor engagement, placing him ninth on the FCV leaderboard and a beneficiary of the PIP.

Early success continues to be a strong predictor of long-term tournament winnings and lucrative and sustained endorsements. Players that ranked in the top 10 Official World Golf Ranking by age 22 outperformed those that reached the top 10 later in their careers.

While US golfers claim two-thirds of the value in the FCV top 10 leaderboard, and 53% of the top 60, global representation remains strong. Golfers from the UK represent 15% of the top 60 and McIlroy claims the FCV top spot. England’s Matthew Fitzpatrick and Tyrrell Hatton also rank in the FCV top 20 leaderboard, while Justin Rose dropped 22 places since last year and Scotland’s Robert MacIntyre dropped five places.

Michael Weaver, Managing Director and Head of Valuation Advisory EMEA at Duff & Phelps, said: “The second iteration of our study has shown that early career performance is not the only predictor of a player’s future value and brand power has a huge part to play in driving overall value. Tiger Woods is the perfect example of this. Unable to play due to health reasons, but still ranked ninth on the leaderboard. Sporting performance is, of course, still vital for any player, but it’s increasingly important that golfers court endorsements outside of competitions if they want to maximise the value they generate.”

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