View From the Spire: The Good, Bad, the Ugly

IMG Worldwide – the most global of giants, have defined cornering a market. In fact – not just one corner – it has fought in all available corners – and it seems that every market is one that they can lay claim to ruling.

Take the business of sport, they exist everywhere no matter what sport and no matter on what basis. From consulting, venue development, event management to talent representation, training/academies, sponsorship and media distribution – they do it all, they are very good at it and they are the undisputed world beaters at it. Then take the other industries involving celebrity, media, advertising and property development. They “own” all of these too.

If we look at almost any sporting event – and let us say golf. They “own”, through having developed, or managed, the golf courses and resorts. They deliver, and subsequently, manage many of the biggest and most high profile events using and promoting that venue. They manage, and therefore, bring the highest profile talent that plays in that event, to the course that they also promote. They manage, and therefore deliver the sponsors, gaining benefit from the profile and exposure their talent delivers by playing in their own events at the venue that they gain benefit from owning or managing!

IMG deliver the media relationships that drive the awareness and creates sponsorship that drives the talent that benefits the venue that bolsters their revenue to make them more powerful that drives the opportunities. And so the cycle continues. Endlessly. The cradle to grave delivery clearly delivers great revenue and creates some of most interesting and highly watched spectator sporting events the game of golf has.

So with that approach, is it good for a company to own and manage every element in a particular business vertical? I guess financially it is – if you are IMG. What could be bad about taking 20% out of every step in the process – and taking a sizeable consulting chunk on top where you can appropriately?

In golf, they also have a unique relationship with the European Tour and the PGA Tour, running many of their now global events – one might question be who is the governing body and which one tows the line in support? With IMG and the European Tour is it a question of the tail wagging the dog? Which one is really in control? Heaven forbid, is IMG powerful enough to have a bearing on who plays as picks in a competition like the Ryder Cup?

And what if you are high performing talent. Should you be with IMG as they will cut you the best and biggest deals and ensure your participation in the  biggest events. If not, what does it mean for you? (Though I guess Rory, GMac or Darren Clarke are not currently suffering with Chubby Chandlers ISM stable!)

In golf course design and management – read the IMG brochure, it is about creating the best golf courses in the world. To me – that’s a niche, but limited market. Not every course can be the best, not every course can host a top end tournament and not every course is a property development where multi million pound houses are suitable – especially in this financial market. Although is that where everyone else has tucked in behind IMG and found their own niche?

At a time when, barring the elite’s unique position, the golf industry is suffering, clubs and facilities are closing across the globe and the governing bodies should be exploring ways to develop the next generation of golfers – to support the facilities, the equipment and apparel manufacturers and to ensure a future for our sport. I would ask what are IMG doing in this regard? Where is its legacy for the sports it reigns supreme in?

However, does what makes Mark McCormacks (RIP) IMG commercially great at the elite level also make it bad as a business? Does it make it irrelevant? Out of touch? Too big to be flexible? Too inbred and set in its ways with its many departments, pigeon holes to adapt to the ever changing world we live in? Could it could be too corporate – and therefore really quite ugly and cumbersome?

And considering that, does it actually allow for the smaller, more nimble and ultimately cuter boutique organizations, like ISM, Bounce Sports Marketing, Braemar Golf or even G3k Consulting to cut their cloth, make their mark and work to corner that particular element of the market be it talent representation, events, course design and management or sponsorship and events underneath the might of the IMG brand?

Think Jerry McGuire’s fewer clients, better “management” and you might be almost there. Also look at Chubby Chandlers ISM stable that currently holds 3 of the 4 majors and you see it competing with the big, bad, ugly boys in real life!

Which ever way you look at it, IMG have done well, and others have positioned themselves to slip into their wake and so it just seems to work. Either way, there is an interesting series of questions that would have some interesting answers.


About davidmorganjenkins
I am an experienced international, commercial, strategic business leader delivering customer focussed initiatives for world class leisure & sports brands. I have a credible track record of leadership and senior management experience in particular with business operations, marketing & business development within leisure, sport, ecommerce/retail & B2C sectors. I have a unique creative vision, supported by sound financial management & budgetary responsibility having increased brand awareness, sales & core revenue by 60% & profit 200 % at Football Aid over a 3 year period. In parallel, I am centred on attention to detail ensuring a consistent product offering and the greatest possible customer experience. This is delivered through strong collaborative teamwork and creating a culture of creativity, determination and enthusiasm amongst team members. I possess an ability to cement & develop relationships at all levels and can easily engage, report to & upwardly manage share & stakeholder alliances ensuring delivery of business objectives. Key skills Developing & implementing business plans focussing on sales, profits & volume Bringing sales & marketing strategy to life to inspire customers; making visions/dreams a reality Customer service; driving enhanced customer satisfaction & delivering a reputation for excellence Developing, influencing & implementing plans & partnerships that deliver competitive advantage Effective planning & delivery of multiple channel, venue & geographical programmes & projects Leading & managing operation, marketing & business development teams to believe in their ability to succeed Experience headlines Commercial; sales, strategy, development, marketing, sponsorship, promotion, customers service Business administration: P&L, performance, improvement & operational management Marketing & brand; communications, brand management, development & membership/loyalty Ecommerce & retail; FMCG, optimisation, data (CRM), social media, SEO, PPC & affiliates Technology; CRM, web TV, new media, smart phone/iPhone applications

5 Responses to View From the Spire: The Good, Bad, the Ugly

  1. John Spies says:

    Having read this, I have to ask why you wrote it? It sounds a bit of ‘sour grapes’ to me actually and really only asks rhetorical questions. There is virtually no info within and I doubt any research was done.
    Knowing nothing about any of the firms mentioned (I grind out a living and managing one small golf course is part of that; no time for reviewing the ‘big boys’), I have to simply applaud them for taking the lead in every avenue available to them. They take the risk; why not enjoy the reward and build on it? That’s called ‘Capitalism’ the last I heard and good for them and their clients.
    If the little guys can bottle some lightning; let them do so and challenge away!
    I’ve been in the club business and have an MBA in club management; as such, I feel qualified to comment. If you disagree….cool.

    I really am not trying to be nasty or anything; just expected more from someone on ‘the spire’.

  2. Joe Cowhick says:

    I would like to relate two experiences I had with IMG. I am a former PGA Head Professional who began to teach full time (not far from IMG’s Manhattan office) in order to develop golf training aids. One of my aids was a platform for uneven lies which I realized could turn into putting lessons. I soon got the idea for charity fundraising putting events.
    The ideas kept coming until I went to IMG with the idea of a type of “Golf Olympics”. Ten golf skill events like the Olympic decathlon. I met face to face with the fellow that set the record for The Olympics television revenue income received from I believe ABC. This was about 1987. He seemed interested in my ideas until I mentioned charity fundraising and a wall went up.

    In 1997 I read about an interview with Earl Woods and what the Tiger Woods Foundation was going to accomplish. I sent a letter to Hughes Norton, Tiger Wood’s first IMG rep and explained that my educational putting games that teach numbers, the alphabet, and work on into simple math and spelling would be a perfect fit for helping the people the Woods team envisioned helping. I received a polite reply back from IMG stating that there was no interest. Tiger needs to do something more higher profile to restore his tarnished image. I have plenty of ideas to make money. I will give my charity fundraising ideas away if they can help to eliminate pain and suffering.

  3. Ian M says:

    Excellent article. They are as powerful as they are by being very good at what they do! With success comes the ability to influence the markets they work in and from what I see they are doing a pretty good job for their shareholders.
    For my company IMG have no influence at all. We work in the Amateur Golf market (the people that actually buy the goods and services IMG promote on behalf of their clients)
    We are at the bottom end of the sponsorship ladder so not worthy of the likes of IMG’s attention.
    IMG are not alone and there are a few companies snapping at their heals as mentioned in your article. However, until IMG drop their guard or get complacent they will remain synonymous with being the best in the business.

  4. Kim Robinson says:

    I am not sure where you land regarding IMG and its value in helping build the game of golf. My suspicion is that you agree they have their positive qualities but as the last post suggests, your comments do suggest IMG should be criticised.

    Please take a look at PowerPlay Golf with which IMG has collaborated to launch a new golf format aimed at growing the game. The Chairman of the company is Ken Schofield whom you may know is Director of the European Union. One of the Company founders is Peter McEvoy, a two-time British amatuer champion.

    The format is making great strides forward as golf unions throughout Europe are endorsing PPG for what it can do for golf.

    While undoubtedly IMG is looking to ultimately crystalize value out of its early support, as one person has commented, it is taking risk, giving back to the sport and should realize a return for its efforts.

    I am trying to figure out why such efforts should be knocked.

    • There is no question that IMG have assisted in making the elite game what it is today – no question at all. And they have built a very succesfull business from all the areas (and many more) that I have mentioned. They are powerful and very good at what they do.

      However, Im not sure that they are doing much at grassroots. I watched the PowerPlayGolf effort at Celtic Manor and must say it was pretty dire and involved IMG managed professionals (not really growing the grass roots of the game is it?) – and it was not a great spectacle. Im not aware of how this pan out to grow grass roots golf – but remain interested and will see whats what in time. PowerPlayGolf alone will not be the saviour of our game – Im not sure that IMGs greater efforts will be either. But I like to be surprised.

      That said, Im not picking on anything against IMG within this article – as above, they are powerful and world beaters at what they do. But Im really asking questions, Im probing and seeing what comes back.

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