Biz Ball: 15 to watch 2016 Masters edition


With The Masters at Augusta National set to begin on April 7, Sports Business Insider Rick Horrow takes a look at the top 15 trends to watch during golf's largest event:

1. The Masters Housing Bureau, the only rental bureau sanctioned by the Augusta National Golf Club, has seen a 3 percent increase in listings this year, along with a 3.4 percent rise in average rental rates. Masters Housing was established in 1970 as a joint venture between the golf club and the Augusta Metro Chamber of Commerce, but this year mark’s a peak for the organization. The average home price last year was $6,400, but that number has risen to $6,600, with rentals now frequently exceeding a week in length.

2. Despite The Masters being one of the most iconic and exclusive sporting events in the world, its food prices reflect the opposite. Masters concessions prices are among the cheapest in the world – its famous “Pimento Cheese” sandwich is a mere $1.50. The most expensive food items on the menu are the grilled chicken wrap and the chicken sandwich, each ringing in at $3.00. A domestic beer will cost $3.00 and an imported beer is $4.00. The price of domestic beer has risen 50 percent over the past eight years.

3. You could say that Australian golf is ready to jump the Shark – in a good way. When golfer Greg Norman climbed to the top of the World Golf Rankings a generation ago, it sparked a golf boom Down Under. New courses were built, amateurs embraced the game, and, critical to the sport’s pipeline, Australian junior golf programs flourished. After Adam Scott won the Masters two years ago and ascended to the World Number One spot, Golf Australia, the country’s equivalent to the USGA, prepped for another rush of players to the sport. But that didn’t happen, according to veteran golf writer Jack Newtown, because of a flawed handicap system, junior programs focused on elite players rather than grassroots, and discord between Australian golf’s governing bodies. Now, however, with Scott sitting at No. 6 and countryman Jason Day reclaiming the No. 1 spot and being the odds-on favorite to win the Masters, Golf Australia is confident that the unprecedented strength of Australian golf right now will lead to a major increase in the 1.2 million participants, 1,947 courses, and 14.4 million member rounds the Aussie association tallied last year.

4. Although Augusta, Georgia gets plenty of on-camera time during Masters Week, the city has largely missed out on the swag that comes with being a part of the “Hollywood of the South.” Georgia, somewhat surprisingly, follows California and New York as the third largest hub for film and television production in the country. The state has offered hundreds of millions of dollars in tax breaks to producers and studios, and in turn has been rewarded with big budget film shoots – to the tune of about $5 billion annually. Last summer’s “Ant-Man” spent $106 million in the state and hired 3,500 Georgians, and now, “Fast and Furious 8” and “Baywatch” are being filmed there. But Augusta even failed to land the shoot for “Get on Up,” the biopic about hometown Godfather of Soul James Brown. Now, the Augusta-based Southeastern Film Makers Association wants to get out and sell the city as a great location for something besides golf. When it comes to pocketing millions from the film industry, Augusta is more than ready for its close-up.

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5. How do you make a splash without being splashy? Golf consumers are intensely loyal to their favorite brands, and extremely suspicious of hype. Nike, despite having Tiger Woods as the face of its golf brand, learned that lesson the hard way; Under Armour took a long look at Nike’s line and is giving it a better read via technology, young stars like Jordan Spieth, and a straightforward game plan. Years after launching its golf apparel and equipment line behind Woods, Nike lags behind many traditional golf brands, and missed earnings expectations last quarter. Under Armour is sticking closely to apparel for now, and the pared-down strategy has raised its market cap to $17 billion. Golf-wise, UA just launched its first golf shoe line, a subtle Spieth-branded addition to the simple blue, black, gray and white ensembles the Texan has favored since UA signed him to a reported $20 million deal in January, 2015 – and the low-flash, high performance golf attire most likely to be found in the closets of millennials who wore Under Armour ten years ago when they played high school sports and stuck with the brand. Maybe we should just call the company Under Radar.

6. This year at the Masters will most likely feature a field of less than 90 players for the first time since 2002. As of now, 89 golfers have qualified for the tournament, but that number includes Tiger Woods. Even if someone were to claim the 90th spot, it is unlikely that the field will actually stay at 90, as Woods is looking less likely to participate as we close in the tournaments’ opening round. The Masters have not held a field of at least 100 players since 1966 when 103 golfers teed it up.

7. According to the books in Las Vegas, the world’s top-5 ranked golfers are not actually the five most likely to win The Masters in early April. Jason Day and Jordan Spieth are ranked No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, with Rory McIlroy, Bubba Watson, and Rickie Fowler rounding out the top 5. But in Vegas, Spieth, Watson, No. 20 Phil Mickelson, No. 7 Henrik Stenson, and No. 11 Louis Oosthuizen mark the top 5 most likely to win. Oosthuizen sits at 40-1 odds, Stenson at 30-1, Mickelson at 21-1, Watson at 10-1, and Spieth leading the way at 7-1 odds. Some of the least likely to win are Jimmy Walker at 80-1, Kevin Na at 150-1, and Bill Haas at 100-1.

8. This year, Golf Channel will present over 85 hours of 2016 Masters coverage. Nearly 60 of those hours are planned to center around “Golf Central Live from The Masters” – focusing on emerging storylines, analysis, features and guest interviews. Masters Week will begin on Sunday, April 3, with live coverage of the 2015 Drive, Chip & Putt Championship National Finals. The total 85 hours will be comprised of programming from both Augusta National Golf Club and Golf Channel’s World Headquarters in Orlando, Florida.

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9. DirecTV is bringing its first-ever live 4K broadcast to subscribers, direct from Augusta National’s Amen Corner. The Masters feed will mark the first time U.S. viewers will be able to tune into a live UHD broadcast, available through the satellite provider's dedicated 4K channel. With 4K UHD, viewers with a 4K-compatible TV get roughly four times the resolution of HDTV, including sharper lines and a deeper color palette. The detail is so rich that you might even see the divots in the turf as if you’re right there on the green and get a better feel for Augusta’s sculpted contours and elevations.

10. While it may not be known for its film industry, Georgia is actually one of the biggest film markets in the country – racking more than five billion dollars into the state last year. But this multi-billion-dollar industry has largely missed Augusta. Mayor Hardie Davis commented on the prospect of bringing Hollywood to Augusta, saying, "It's a over billion dollar industry in the State of Georgia and there's no reason why Augusta with all of the resources that we have should not be capitalizing on it at this time." The state film office says about 23,000 people are working for movie and TV producers in Georgia and more than 77,000 are working indirectly for the film industry.

11. In preparation for the Masters, the Augusta Regional Airport is making some changes. According to airport officials, more direct flights are being added; New York City, Washington D.C., Philadelphia, Dallas and Chicago are the cities that will be flying directly to Augusta. Just like last year, the airport will be shutting down a secondary runway to make a parking lot for private jets. In 2015, Augusta Regional ushered 20,000 people through its doors during Masters week alone – the same number of travels that usually visit per month.

12. Andy Duckett, an architect with a clear obsession for the Masters and golf, just finished constructing a 5,000-block Lego replica of the iconic Masters leaderboard. Weighing in at a massive 40-pounds and measuring 65 inches long, 16 inches high, and 5 inches deep, the model was brought to Augusta earlier in March and will be displayed at a store with some of Duckett’s other golf items. Last year, the Georgia Tech graduate constructed a 3,000-block Lego replica of Augusta National Golf Club’s clubhouse; it weighed 10 pounds and sold for $1,700. Duckett plans on selling his new creation shortly after the tournament, and will then begin constructing a replication of an Augusta National hole.

13. How Under Armour is harnessing technology and Jordan Spieth to take on Nike and adidas in the golf shoe vertical. This will be blended specifically with Spieth's social media reach and how UA is cannily capitalizing on it.

14. What the Masters means to the brands of global sponsors AT&T, IBM, and Mercedes, and international partners UPS and Rolex. What is the prestige factor of being one of only 5 sponsors of this prestige event? What is the value of the international TV exposure? What is the challenge of maximizing advertising exposure in an event with extremely limited TV commercials?

15. Brand Value of the Official World Golf Rankings No. 1 -- Jason Day just supplanted Jordan Spieth as the OWGR No. 1, the second time the talented Australian has ascended to the #1 spot. What does attaining and keeping No. 1 do to a player's brand value, as well as the value of their sponsor deals and appearance fees?

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