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Swing Time in Seoul: The Global Golfing Powerhouse of South Korea
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Swing Time in Seoul: The Global Golfing Powerhouse of South Korea

In terms of golf’s global appeal, few markets rank higher than South Korea. Insights from Nielsen Sports show that 35% of people in the country are interested in golf, which puts it ahead of markets like the U.S. and Europe as the sport’s most interested population.

But while interest in the sport is widespread across the country, South Korean female professional players are leading a surge in enthusiasm over the sport among both audiences and domestic brands. Today, 24 of the top 50 and 40 of the top 100 female golfers in the world rankings are South Korean. The winners of the last three HSBC Women’s Championship have been South Korean, (Inbee Park {2015 and 2017} and Jang Ha-na {2016}), and more than one-quarter (16) of the 58 competitors at this year’s event are from South Korea.

“With 15% of the population saying that golf is one of their preferred sports to watch on TV, South Koreans rank highest of any nation in terms of their love for the sport when it comes to TV viewership,” said John Mou, Managing Director of Nielsen Sports in South Korea.

In terms of global sports TV viewing, South Koreans lead the way when it comes to golf. The Japanese are the second-most enthused viewers, as 10% of the population says that golf is one of their preferred sports to watch, followed by the U.K. (9%) and the U.S. (8%).

“In South Korea, golf ranks as the fourth-most followed sport, behind baseball (54%), soccer (53%) and basketball (21%),” continued Mou, “and it is our female competitors who are leading that charge, one that is helping grow the sport and encourage South Korean brands to invest and engage new audiences.”

South Korean brands are now seen as a key part of the sport, helping to fuel its growth globally. Some of the more internationally recognised South Korean brands sponsoring golf include Hyundai, Kia, LG, Samsung and Fila. But sponsorship isn’t just for global brands. An array of regional brands are involved in golf sponsorship as well, including Lotte, SK Telecom, Doosan, Asiana and Pepero, and the support of these brands is helping to develop the sport and promote South Korea as a golfing powerhouse.

According to Nielsen Sports’ Quality Index Media Value (QIMV) for sponsorship measurement, the top three PGA Tour players with Korean-based sponsors are KJ Choi, Kim-Si-Woo and Byeong Hun An. QIMV takes into account the quality and weight of sponsorship exposures, audience size and cost per thousand.

  • KJ Choi: $1,428,347 in QIMV, representing nearly 50% of total 2016 Korean-based golfer endorsement deals
  • Kim-Si-Woo: $963,496 in QIMV, representing over 33%
  • Byeong Hun An: $283,812 in QIMV, representing nearly 10%

Based on the analysis of specific brands, the highest generating LPGA Tour player with Korean-based Sponsors is Minjee Lee, who has nearly $1.2 million in QIMV, representing 93% of total 2016 Korean-based golfer endorsement deals.

South Korea also ranks higher than any other market globally in terms of participation in the sport. Today, 14% of South Koreans actively participate in golf, followed again by Japan (11%), the U.S. (9%) and the U.K. (8%).