When you are this good, you don’t need a brand (but what would Bobby say?)

Apr 10, 2024 | Branding, Mastery

Azaleas, Dogwoods, and Jonquils.

Sundresses and pretty girls.

Pimento cheese, Coca Cola, and pecan pie.

Springtime in Georgia can only mean one thing. The Masters!

Once again, the most fantastic sporting and marketing event of all time is upon us.

It is an event unlike any other. Founded on tradition, passion, and a desire to succeed, Augusta National hosts the world’s most extraordinary sporting event.

Best of all, they do it on their terms.

I have to admit, the Masters is special to me. It’s not just the wonder of the event that makes it unique but the showcase it brings to Georgia and the good things our state can provide.

The people of Georgia give their gracious hospitality to everyone who visits our land. Our language is unique, and we never judge anyone for trying to get it right.

For example, the Masters is not really “the Masters”; it’s simply “the Tournament.”

The “ruff” (high grass just off the fairway) is referred to as the “1st or 2nd cut”.

My favorite is, of course, the drink… it’s simply a “Coke.” Regardless of what you want, if you order a “Coke,” everything will work out fine.

A few decades ago, people from a faraway place (outside our state lines) tried challenging some of Augusta National’s traditions.

Frankly, they failed.

One person in particular (I am way too polite to name names) thought it was their business to try and influence others to boycott “the Tournament” because Augusta National was not run the way she (the person who will remain unnamed) thought it should be. Note that this person was not a club member, nor did she have any stake in what happened down Magnolia Lane. She wanted the people of Augusta National to “think and behave” the way she did.

This odd request of hers (the name that shall not be spoken) involved picketing “the Tournament” (which did not work), speaking against “the Tournament” (which failed again), and, best of all, asking people to stay home and not attend (which did not work). In fact, in great irony, her efforts to inflict her ideals on others not only failed, but they made things better.

In response to her request, Augusta National did the unthinkable.

No, they did not bow down to her wishes. Augusta National (with great Southern charm) actually “relieved” their corporate sponsors of any obligations. They allowed all sponsors to back out of their contracts. With grace, they were offered to abstain from “the Tournament” if they felt compelled or threatened by the person who shall remain unnamed.

Additionally, they (Augusta National) created a new rule: “The Tournament” would no longer allow brands to be displayed on their grounds. This was done not out of arrogance but out of respect.
In summary, the “club” felt that the battle was a single attack upon its membership’s way of privately doing business. So, instead of allowing its sponsors any collateral damage, it simply let them go and went about their business alone… or so it seemed.

What happened next made even the best golfers in the world turn their heads in amazement.

When Augusta National approached its biggest sponsors and told them it would not allow brands to be represented at “the Tournament,” it was a bigger deal than most people could have imagined.
Economists estimate that it was a $1 BILLION decision.

Yep, that is $1 Billion with a capital “B”.

Wow, how many other organizations would have done something like that?

What would Bobby have to say about it if he was alive today?

The legendary stories surrounding Bobby Jones are forever etched in Atlanta’s history. He was the person who put golf on the map and made it “everyone’s game.”

He won three British Opens, four US Opens, and nine PGA Tour events.

Most people don’t remember that he won them all as an “amateur.”

That’s right, Bobby never went professional. He made his living as a lawyer, but he had the smarts to capitalize on his fame after he retired with golf course design and equipment sales.

Bobby lived a fantastic life and, in many ways, encapsulated Augusta National’s essence. Even today, 53 years after his death, his presence is felt.

As a boy growing up in Atlanta, I was never exposed to the riches usually associated with private golf clubs and the likes of the Masters. To put it bluntly, it seemed like another world whenever I watched it on TV or read about it in Sports Illustrated. As a child of the 1960s, a lot was going on in Atlanta. The goodness of golf and the charm of Bobby Jones struggled with headlines from a much darker part of our history. I remember those days well, both good and bad.

Interestingly enough, Bobby Jones touched my life 30 years before I was born.

In the 1930s, my grandfather was a local Atlanta butcher who worked countless hours serving his products in a retail world where money was scarce. The Great Depression was in full swing, and the world was preparing for war. It was not the best of times to sell prime rib and steaks, but he worked hard and provided for his family.

One of the stories he told me involved a gentleman who would always come into his shop just seconds before he closed. This ritual occurred every Saturday night and was so well-timed that my grandfather could set his clock by it. Shortly before it was time to close, my grandfather would wrap a particular cut of beef, place it in the paper, and hold it under the counter. Then, just as he would walk to lock the door, a man would walk in, smile, and lay the exact change on the counter. My grandfather would hand him his meat, thank him, and watch him leave.

This ritual went on for years.

The man, of course, was Bobby Jones.

To this day, the story makes me smile. When I was first told this story, I was curious about the routine but intelligent enough to ask, “Why?”

Bobby Jones was not only a great golfer but a great man as well.

Mr. Jones liked steak but knew many were starving and had little to eat. He also knew that if they saw him enjoying the good fortune of his work and serving steak, they might not appreciate it or misinterpret it.

Bobby knew that he was an individual “brand.” He protected this brand and did not want it tarnished by allowing someone else to express his or her opinion regardless of his intentions.

He had arranged this process with my grandfather to control the opportunity for others to damage his “brand,” and it worked well for many years.

70+ years later, something amazing happened when Augusta National decided to respect others by offering to walk away from a billion dollars in brand advertising.

Imagine what it takes to risk it all and potentially pass up $1 billion — not of your own accord, but in response to your belief that others deserve to be treated fairly, even when you are not.

Augusta National never wavered, and in turn, something extraordinary happened.

Instead of their top sponsors “pulling the plug” and taking their dollars elsewhere, they stayed with the Masters, but with one requirement: they would remain anonymous.

You see, even to this day, over a decade after an unwarranted soul decided to embark her feelings on others, and years after Bobby Jones passed away, brands are protected at the Master’s, even to the point of silence.

Best of all, no one cares.

When you have a brand like Coca-Cola, Budweiser, Heineken, Snickers, and Lays Potato Chips, it’s about something other than the logo – it is about what your brand can deliver.

Jointly and without holding back, each sponsor can sell their products without a single logo or a brand name visible… anywhere.

They even produce a unique product packaging line that removes any resemblance to their brand, offered only at the Masters.

When you are as good as these guys, and everyone knows it, things work out for you, even when you must go out of your way to protect your brand.

So, this week’s Masters is about more than incredible golf. It is about what the best do to protect themselves and their brands. Why? To better serve others and make your experience a memorable moment.

It is simple, and it always works out.

On the grounds this week, if you want soda, ask for a “Coke”; they know what you mean.

If you want a beer, they will ask you if you wish “domestic,” “domestic light,” or “import”… You will not be disappointed.

Candy Bar? It’s the best.

Potato Chips? Yep, you get by now.

When your brand is as good as the traditions of the world’s most remarkable sporting event, you don’t have to worry about people knowing your name.

Like “the Tournament” itself, you don’t have to know the golfer’s names to know they are the best in the world.

When tradition, grace, and style meet at a place where you are free to protect your brand while serving those who appreciate your craft, it is a beautiful place.

Oh yeah, I forgot to tell you the best part of my grandfather’s relationship with Bobby Jones.

My grandfather made two duplicate orders when Mr. Jones entered his butcher shop every Saturday night.

When he picked up the steak, Bobby Jones paid for both orders and took them away with a smile and a generous “thank you.”

People never knew that while Bobby Jones was careful to protect his “brand,” he took an extra order every night and gave it to a needy family somewhere in Atlanta.

Every night, he fed a new family, and no one knew his name.

Welcome to Georgia.

Welcome to the Masters.


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