By Thomas Calhoun
A tradition unlike any other. Five words that mean nothing to some, but more than anything to others. Famously coined by the great Jim Nantz, this catchphrase carries its weight in gold. The Masters tournament at Augusta National Golf Club is the first of the four major tournaments in the golf season, but what makes it different from any other event? The Masters is one of the most prestigious sporting events in the world and one of the most coveted brands in golf. It is more than just a historic tournament on a difficult course, it’s an experience altogether.
As you walk into the main gates of the tournament, you will notice the strict no cell phones policy. This is one of the most unique things about The Masters compared to every other tournament in the world. It allows the patrons to connect with the course, and each other without any outside distractions. I had the privilege of attending the tournament last week, and something that stood out was how quiet it was in the mornings. There was no one running, no one yelling or talking on their phone, just people taking in the beauty of the course. It makes you soak up every possible moment and you realize how different it is from watching on TV the year before. The grounds are much hillier, the grass is much greener, and even the azaleas are pinker.
To make it even more special, only a select few thousand people can attend The Masters every year. Ticketing is extremely different from other events as well because they are only available to members of the club, businesses that have had them for decades, and a lottery system for the general public. Anyone is able to enter the lottery system to gain access to The Masters but only around one out of every two hundred entries get selected. Some people wait their whole lives for a ticket and never even get the chance to attend, no matter if they have the money for it or not. This seems a bit unfair, but then again it is just another reason why going at all is so special.
Another aspect of the tournament that makes it different from all other sporting events is the merchandise. The merchandise sales at The Masters this year surpassed $69 million, this includes all shirts, hats, flags, sweaters, and all other items specially made for the week. The shirts and hats are the two top-selling items year after year with Peter Millar being the only outside brand that is sold in the shop, the rest is branded Masters Tech. Essentially The Masters makes all of their own merchandise and only sells it one week out of the entire year.
They also have to protect the brand by sweeping the web for patrons that try and resell items online. It is rumored that the cyber security team even goes as far as to remove listings from the internet and ban patrons for life if they are caught reselling the merchandise. Just another way that Augusta National protects the brand and continues to make it an exclusive club, for paying patrons only.
Concessions play a huge role in any sporting event, usually coming with an unruly price tag, but not in Augusta. With sandwiches ranging from $1.50 for the world-famous pimento cheese sandwich to a whopping $3.50 for a chicken salad sandwich. The idea here is for patrons to be able to get an enjoyable experience while inside the gates and not have to worry about spending a fortune on food or drinks. Beer is the same way, with domestics, imports, and even the Masters specialty beer only costing $5, an incredible price to pay for such a prestigious event. Like everything else at the tournament, it is strictly Masters branded. There are no sponsorships from food or beverage companies, not even for beer or chips.
The biggest takeaway from the week was the lack of any total sponsorship or signage at the tournament. Even when watching on TV, there are only a handful of official Masters sponsors and most of them have lifetime deals. AT&T, Mercedes-Benz, Rolex, UPS, Delta, and IBM are the only official sponsors of The Masters and they have been for years. The tournament could make millions of dollars if they took on more companies as sponsors but in Augusta, it’s not all about the money. The tournament also does not take in domestic TV revenue, they simply retain complete control over the broadcast on ESPN and CBS in exchange for no compensation. It is a relationship that goes back decades and benefits both parties exceptionally well.
According to Sports Pro Media, around 9.5 million people watched The Masters last year compared to just 5 million for the PGA Championship, which happens to be the next major tournament on the schedule. This shows how much more popular The Masters is than any other golf event, even as a tournament that has sold the least amount of tickets over the years. Masters Sunday is just one of those sporting events that you have to tune into whether you are a golf fan or not. It’s a day that brings people all around the world together not just to watch a tournament, but to witness a piece of history. A day that consistently brings both chaos and tranquility and grows the game year after year. With Scottie Scheffler winning the green jacket this year, it just goes to show that we have a lot of great tournaments left ahead of us. This special week in north Georgia blows the golf season wide open and brings the spark back to the game of golf.
It’s not all about the money at The Masters, it’s about history and tradition. A wise man once said, “sometimes it is more important to value community over currency”, and I think those words apply perfectly here. Sure The Masters brings in over $142 million in revenue a year but that is a minuscule number compared to what they could be making. A small price to pay to be the most respected brand in sports. They make enough to keep the course in perfect condition, pay all of their bills and still have plenty leftover. It’s important not to let greed get in the way of something perfect, to begin with. The Masters brand holds its weight in gold and won't ever change, and that’s something to really admire.