The upstart league has an opportunity to revolutionize golf through one basic concept — a format where the value of the brand is its team
Editor’s Note: Colin Weston is the creator and host “The ModGolf Podcast,” which is part of The First Call podcast network. Weston speaks with entrepreneurs, innovators, disruptors and influencers who are shaping the future of the golf industry. His podcasts can be Listen in at www.mod.golf.
Lots of listeners have asked me “Why aren’t you talking more about LIV Golf since ‘The ModGolf Podcast’ is about entrepreneurship and innovation in the golf industry?”
The main reason why I have not is that I’m playing the long game on this story. I believe coexistence with the PGA Tour is attainable, as has been proven out in other pro sports leagues with alternative playing formats such as cricket and volleyball. The NFL, NHL, NBA, MLB, English Premier League and LaLiga understand the value of team brands and so does LIV.
Is CEO Greg Norman and LIV getting everything right? Absolutely not. And that is the nature of entrepreneurship, startup culture and rapid design prototyping. Will LIV succeed? Just like eight out of 10 startups fail, LIV is still a risky bet as a sustainable business model. But what the league has going for it is the team format — and plenty of financial backing. Yes, the current team names are silly and/or lame and fans don’t know who is on each one, but that doesn’t matter right now.
What Norman understands is the value of team franchises. A loyal fan base is built around the stories, memories and experiences of heartbreaking losses and meaningful wins, and it takes time to nurture those. LIV has at least a five-year window to build a brand around each team as rivalries form and champions are crowned.
Norman did not invent this formula. In the 1970s, fellow Australian Kerry Packer reimagined traditional cricket from a five-day long test match to a faster, one-day 50-over format called World Series Cricket. The old guard vilified Packer as someone who was trying to destroy the game's tradition and history. What instead happened was an innovative evolution of cricket that led to the Twenty20 (T20) team-based format known as the Indian Premier League (IPL). The average value of an IPL team franchise in 2021 stood at over $1 billion.
For readers in North America who aren’t familiar with the format and length of a cricket match, I will compare it to baseball. A five-day test match is the equivalent to playing five doubleheaders, as a match will typically last around 8 hours and 90 overs per day. The One-Day International (ODI) 50-over format is like a doubleheader taking around 7.5 hours to play. The Twenty20 format only takes around three hours to play, which was designed to reflect the popular viewing length of an NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB game.
The game length is another innovation LIV Golf has borrowed from T20. The LIV shotgun start reduces the gameplay time from 8 to 12 hours for a PGA Tour event down to 4 to 5 hours a day. Not quite the length of an NHL game, but LIV understands that time is the most precious commodity people have and reducing the game time while maintaining the excitement level is a key factor in fostering growth.
I see LIV Golf having the potential to unlock a new fan base for golf that is more aligned with gaming and Esports through content delivery platforms such as Twitch. The PGA Tour and CEO Jay Monahan initially viewed LIV as a threat and, after seeing top players and personalities lured away, I get that. What they didn’t see until now is their own need to innovate.
Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy’s announcement last week of TGL, a Monday night league through their new TMRW Sports, is a positive sign that they shifted their energy and mindset. I look forward to the next chapter as this story continues to write itself.
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