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Brand Lessons from Bubba Watson
April 8th, 2012

Bubba WatsonI’m usually one to curl up for a good afternoon nap during the Masters (what better than those long green shots and quiet announcers to help you doze off?), but this year, I couldn’t help but watch transfixed by a relative newcomer named Bubba Watson.  If you didn’t watch, or don’t follow golf, the 33 year old Bubba has been making waves for a while, has won a few tournaments, but till yesterday, had never won a major.  I watched fully committed to his game, laughed out loud throughout his shots all day, and clapped and cheered as he won the most prestigious title in golf in sudden-death overtime.

Aside even from his southern-boy look and idiosyncratic golf swing, Bubba stands out among the crowd.  A few lessons for marketers from his day in the spotlight (or, my Ode to Bubba):

  1. Be True to Yourself: Bubba’s self-proclaimed version of the sport, “Bubba Golf” is rooted in the fact that he is self-taught. He stands as a contrast to the highly trained, closely coached, tightly focused way that the game is played today.  His stance, swing, and timing are all his own – but they work for him, and it’s clear he’s not trying to be anything other than himself out there.
  2. Be Honest: In the press conference after his win and in the interviews at the close of each day, I couldn’t wait to hear what he’d say. Unlike many of the other players, who while perfectly nice – stayed on-message and fully professional – Bubba’s interviews bounced from his conversations with his Caddy, to the helicopters circling the course, to his new son.  While he didn’t always have the “right” answer, his candor made him approachable – and made me want to see him succeed.
  3. Say Thank You: In his speech after putting on the famed Green Jacket at Augusta, he thanked everyone from his family to his fellow golfers to the guys who managed the locker room, which he’s been using the past few years. And he genuinely meant it.  Since yesterday, he has also been individually thanking his Twitter fans, who have supported him throughout his career.
  4. Let Your Fans In: Bubba has become known for creating videos with his friends on Twitter. The short, funny clips let people in behind the scenes and welcome people into Bubba’s world.  Compared to the usual framework of stoicism and privacy that has become the norm with players like Tiger, this type of content is a breath of fresh air.
  5. Go Big: “I want to hit the incredible shot,” Watson said. “Who doesn’t?” That pretty much says it all.

In his press interview last night, Bubba was careful to say that he doesn’t play golf for the fame – that being famous was never part of the equation, but that it is about playing a game that he loves and just being himself.  Undoubtedly, with yesterday’s Masters win, the fame will come.

It will be interesting to see which brands he becomes tied to (his primary sponsor now is Ping, which includes a signature charitable initiative; Bubba has already made their clubs noteworthy with his signature Pink driver).  I think it presents an interesting opportunity for the traditional luxury sponsors (usually auto, finance, etc.), and a way for some new brands to make a presence among a highly sought-after audience, as well.

((photo courtesy of The Washington Post))

Tags: Augusta, brand essence, Bubba Watson, Golf, Masters