Play­ing the Long Game

Sport spon­sors can be a fickle breed, but not Rolex, writes Michael Ross. The lux­ury Swiss brand has a long and il­lus­tri­ous as­so­ci­a­tion with golf, and it’s tee­ing up for some tal­ent spot­ting in Hong Kong

Hong Kong Tatler - - Golf -

olf spon­sors come and go. One only has to look at our own Hong Kong Open, the sec­ond-old­est pro­fes­sional sport­ing event in the city, to re­alise that. Dur­ing its 56 years, the event, one of the most pres­ti­gious on the Asian Tour, has seen no fewer than a dozen dif­fer­ent ti­tle spon­sors, which is ac­tu­ally a rel­a­tively small num­ber when com­pared to tour­na­ments of a sim­i­lar vintage.

Cor­po­ra­tions and brands get in­volved in golf for a mul­ti­tude of rea­sons, but few are ever in it for the long haul. There are ex­cep­tions, of course, but a great many spon­sors seem to see golf as a pass­ing fad and dip their toe into the prover­bial golf­ing wa­ter haz­ard for a quick stint be­fore re­treat­ing to the safe con­fines of the con­fer­ence room, where they dream up their next mar­ket­ing strat­egy. This, it should be said, doesn’t just ap­ply to golf—a lot of sports that aren’t con­sid­ered main­stream are sim­i­larly af­fected. But you do get the sense that many cor­po­rates—es­pe­cially banks and other fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions—en­ter into twoor three-year agree­ments with their exit plan al­ready in place.

For­tu­nately, not all com­pa­nies are of a sim­i­lar mind. In­deed, it is in Switzer­land, a coun­try not tra­di­tion­ally known for its love of the game, where we find a lux­ury watch brand whose affin­ity with golf for nearly half a cen­tury has helped rev­o­lu­tionise the spon­sor­ship in­dus­try: Rolex.

In 1967, Arnold Palmer be­came a Rolex am­bas­sador—or tes­ti­monee, as the brand prefers—mark­ing the start of Rolex’s as­so­ci­a­tion with golf, which came just seven years af­ter the death of founder Hans Wils­dorf. It’s not known if Wils­dorf ever picked up a club—he may have en­coun­tered

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