Professional top players can earn considerably more with annotations than ever possible on the course.
Take Justin Rose, the British golfer who is in ninth place in the world. He won more than $ 4 million last season. Yet Morgan Stanley has paid him $ 5 million to wear his name on his hat, while his golf shirt has Master & # 39; s logo on his collar and Bonobos, the clothing company and the Zurich Insurance Group on every sleeve.
So far, only a few caddies with broader name recognition, or at least easy-to-remember nicknames such as Fluff (Cowan) and Bones (Mackay), have benefited financially from their presence on the camera. Most caddies have had to deal with free clothing, if they are lucky, do not receive any of the approval deals that go even to low-ranked players.
Of course, it is not the caddies who wave to the clubs. But if part of a player's advertising value is linked to the time he has on the camera, then the person next to the energized golfer logically has some value.
From this season onwards, that value will be recognized on the European Tour. Caddies are paid through the caddy association, to have a logo on items related to their trade, such as a hat, bag belt, towel, even yard books. As it stands, a player pays a weekly fee to the caddy, usually to cover the costs, and a percentage of his income, which can be as high as 10 percent for a win.
The new agreement is meant to help all caddies, especially those who carry bags for lesser-known players, because those players make fewer cuts and struggle their caddies without the percentage.
"This is not for the man who does caddies for the seventh player in the world because he is doing very well," said Sean Russell, president of the European Tour Caddies Association and a professional caddy. “This is for the man who does caddies for the 157th player. If you do the math, that caddy probably earned 12,000 euros (about $ 13,000) in bonus payments above the fixed fee for the week that covers the costs. If you earn a bonus of 12,000 euros, it is better to stack shelves. "
The Caddies Association, representing around 130 caddies, worked with the European Tour to create sponsorship guidelines. The aim was to provide caddies, who act as independent contactors for their players, not for the tour itself, with an additional source of income.
"The crucial way to make more money is to exploit our presence because we are very visible," said Russell. "Caddies have thousands and thousands of followers on Twitter. Before social media we were unknown Now people know who we are. "
Sponsors who signed up are Maui Jim, a sunglasses company, and Sport Mobile, a telephone service aimed at professional athletes. Neither the association nor Rocket Yard Sports, the agency that brokered the deals, discloses details of the deals or says when more sponsors will be announced.
All safe incomes are welcome for the caddies.
"This entire sponsorship is a help to us to earn a living, "says Oliver Briggs, who has worked for six years and works for Nicolai Hojgaard, a young Danish player. to do a good job at home. It took me four years to get to that point.
Briggs said the caddies, in addition to wearing designer clothes on the job, will use their presence on social media to promote their sponsors.
"We are going to make a lot of videos ourselves if the caddy association and sponsors promote through social media," he said.
There is a precedent for this type of sponsorship. Caddies on the PGA Tour won the right to sponsor money after about 80 caddies sued the tour in 2015 looking for $ 50 million in sponsor money each year. Caddies lawyers argued that they were wrongly exploited by being forced to wear bibs with the sponsor of the tournament without being compensated.
While the caddies eventually lost their suit, the legal battle opened the possibility for caddy sponsorship.
Since the 2015 season, Valspar, a paint company owned by Sherwin-Williams, has been sponsoring the Caddy Hat program on the PGA Tour; caddies can earn money by wearing hats with the company logo.
They receive points in the year-long competition for part of a $ 500,000 pot, usually based on how often a caddy wears a Valspar hat and if his player performs well on the weekend.
Martijn van Eerde, the marketing director for Europe for Maui Jim, said that educating people about eye protection was a long-term goal and that sponsorship was part of it. "We hope the caddies can transfer our message to a younger demography," he said.
Briggs said the sponsorship program was a model for what caddies were trying to do on the European Tour. The association will most likely distribute the sponsorship income evenly over the caddies, with the expectation that each will earn approximately 1000 pounds extra per year.
"It's not very much, but it's something," Russell said.
On the European tour, which goes far beyond Europe, to Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Australia, political and cultural sensitivities are a concern in negotiations with corporate sponsors.
Alcohol and gambling sponsors would not work in the Middle East. But Russell said the caddies would also be aware of tournament sponsors. "We said we won't be attending a Rolex event with Omega hats or a BMW event with Ford hats," he said. "We don't want to go against existing tour sponsors. It's in everyone's interest." People can't relate to the Henrik Stensons and Ian Poulters of the world – they know they can't do what they do, "said Russell of the European Tour players. "But we are much more reliable. The guys next to the superstars look like you or me. "