By Zach Seybert, @zlseybert
In a few weeks, golf enthusiasts and sports fans alike will hear the soothing voice of Jim Nantz as he says the trademarked phrase, “A Tradition Unlike Any Other,” signifying the start of golf’s first major – The Masters.
This tournament is highlighted by the picturesque holes at Augusta National Golf Club and has provided many memories of golfers coming into their own with “Masters moments.” The elusive green jacket provided to each year’s winner (and a subsequent invitation to compete in future tournaments) is something that golfers of all ages (PGA, invited amateurs, even junior golfers) aspire for. The weekend kicks off with a par 3 contest, which is not only fun for the viewers, but also the participants, as they get to use “celebrity” caddies (often times the children/spouse of the players, or even actual celebrities, i.e., Niall Horan of One Direction for Rory McIlroy), as well as show off their short game.
A sport rooted in tradition, golf also has its superstitions. A major one surrounding the par 3 contest is that the winner almost never goes on to win the actual tournament. With this being the case, golfers almost always intentionally disqualify themselves by having their caddie putt for them or take a “celebrity” shot.
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This year’s playing of The Masters will be the first in recent memory without golf legend Arnold Palmer, after his passing last fall.
As one tradition ends, another one is starting up coming from an unlikely source – Natural Light. Although the two brands (The Masters and “Natty” Light) seemingly do not align, the company is looking to change the stigma surrounding it.
Popular among college-aged consumers (above 21 of course), this adult beverage has been known as a cheap alternative for young adults to buy in bulk. As golf looks to grow the game among a younger demographic, Natty is capitalizing on its increased popularity.
During Masters Week, Natty Light will host a hospitality event called the “Natty Shack.” Described as a “unique spin on hospitality for the thousands of 21-27-year-olds who flock to golf’s holy ground,” the invite-only event will include football tailgate-type food, a viewing area for the tournament, live entertainment, and of course, plenty of Natural Light.
In a seemingly surprising, and bold, move to host at an event that oozes prestige and tradition, the brand has hit the ground running in terms of sports sponsorships of late.
Last year, the company signed pro golfer Smylie Kaufman to its first endorsement deal since 1980, when it signed baseball legend Mickey Mantle. The rising golf star, who is active on social media (@SmylieKaufman10 on Twitter), like any other early-to-mid-20s individual, announced his partnership with an Instagram post of him sitting on a throne made of Natural Light boxes.
Kaufman made headlines with his group of friends, including Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler, on their (hopefully annual) spring break trip to the Bahamas, which included golfing in swim trunks and bucket hats while listening to music, classic ribbing amongst friends, and enjoying a tropical vacation as any group of 25 year olds would.
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For those who golf, or attempt to at least, you are aware of how frustrating, yet oddly rewarding the game can be. This group of individuals who seem to “Make Golf Fun (Again)” aligns perfectly with the Natural Light brand. “As a brand, we don’t take ourselves too seriously. This is why people love Natural Light and identify so closely with it. We don’t try too hard or claim to be anything we’re not,” said Chelsea Phillips, senior director of value brands for Anheuser-Busch (Natty’s parent company), in response to the alignment between the brand and Kaufman.
In addition to its endorsement of Kaufman, the rapidly-growing media conglomerate Barstool Sports has also been promoting the beer with its “Natty Tour.” The Barstool crew hit the road in an appropriately branded RV and went to college tailgates across the country handing out branded material along the way and documenting the entire thing via social media.
When the 2017 Masters Tournament rolls around, golfers and fans will be glued to their TVs so as to not miss any new “Masters moments.” As they sit back and soak in the tradition that the first week in April brings each year, Natural Light is looking to shake up the golf industry and spark an interest in the average fan.