- Look for ‘Local Legends’ to Make Resurgence
Look for ‘Local Legends’ to Make Resurgence
sports. media. finance.
Look for ‘Local Legends’ to Make Resurgence
Jon Rahm accepted a deal reportedly valued at more than $300 million to sign with LIV Golf. He joins Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, and Bryson DeChambeau on the list of high-profile PGA Tour defectors.
Week-to-week competition on both tours has been watered down with the talent split. It is among the reasons LIV and the PGA Tour have been trying to push a merger across the finish line.
But even if one comes to fruition, “it’s going to take a while for golf to be aggregated again; other than around the majors,” Howard Lindzon (general partner, Social Leverage) said. “In the meantime, there are vacuums to be filled [within the sport].”
The venture capitalist believes amateur golfers –and more specifically, ‘local legends’– may be positioned to help plug the void. A local legend is a one-time athletic great, often at the high-school or collegiate level, that has gone on to the next stage of his/her life but maintains a celebrity-like status in the city or region he/she once starred.
“The pro-amateur line is going to be [increasingly] blurred [as amateur athletes, with their own platforms, fan communities, and monetization channels, start earning as much or more than the pros],” Lindzon said.
Mix in sports betting and the increasing use of AI in broadcast technology, and “you have more people inclined to watch and more inclined to care [about and invest in amateur athletics than ever before],” Roger Ehrenberg (managing partner, Eberg Capital) said.
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Local legends were prominent figures in communities across the U.S. for the first three-quarters of the 20th century.
Oftentimes Olympians, these athletes typically “didn’t make enough money [playing] their sport, so they [worked and] were out there making appearances [in the community],” Ehrenberg said.
Of course, sports have become big business over the last fifty years. And as cable television made it possible for fans to watch the best athletes from around the country on a daily basis, the appeal of the local legend was largely lost.
But the ongoing fractionalization of the media landscape has Lindzon convinced the local legend is primed for a resurgence.
“What came from tech is now happening to sports. It’s just a bundling and unbundling,” he said. “Everything is getting unbundled [so there are more platforms for a local legend to emerge] and one day they’ll get bundled again when somebody comes along with the right money and format.”
The emergence of digital platforms that enable fans to help finance a local legends’ athletic pursuits support Lindzon’s thesis.
“Before, [an athlete] would have to get all [his/her] buddies, their parents, and friends [to donate] to fund [an amateur sports career],” Lindzon said. “Now, their [talent] can spread on YouTube and thousands of people can converge on an app [and support them].”
Logic suggests financial backers will be engaged supporters of the individual.
Putting money behind an athlete “creates a level of connectivity [with that athlete] that previously couldn’t be had,” Ehrenberg said.
Widespread acceptance of gambling should help draw local legends out of the woodwork too.
“There’s [high] money games all over the place, now,” Lindzon said.
And the emergence of AI technology will ensure all of their athletic accomplishments are captured. Remember, the shuttering of newsrooms over the last two decades has meant the loss of local sports coverage.
“From a technological standpoint, it becomes cheap to cover local [events again],” Lindzon said.
A return of the local legend, could spur increased interest in –and ultimately dollars spent on– amateur athletics.
“Amateur sports is going to have another huge boom,” Lindzon predicted. “Golf is [one] sport that is going to go very amateur. The pros [will] just distribute it.”
Cycling is another sport that will become increasingly amateur. The VC said there are 1,000 great cyclists in the world.
“You know where they are,” he asked. “On YouTube, and they all have like 100,000 followers.”
Some will be able to earn more as creators and amateur athletes than as professional team riders.
“Whether it is viewing [their content], betting, buying tickets [or merchandise, fans of these individuals] do all these things,” Lindzon said.
There are also likely to be college athletes whose earning potential is greater as a local legend than what he or she could make turning pro. Champions Circle, one of the leading University of Michigan collectives, was able to entice team captains Blake Corum and Zach Zinter to remain in Ann Arbor this past season.
Social media has enabled a local legend to cultivate a following during his/her athletic prime and then maintain relevance with an engaged demo once their playing days have concluded.
Most athletes’ post-playing “career was limited [before],” Lindzon said. “After the Olympics, you were never going to hear from [most] of those people again.”
Now a local legend’s career can run for decades.
“An 8-year-old can be a local legend, an 80-year-old could be local legend,” Lindzon said.
One does not even need to be an elite level athlete to qualify as a local legend today.
“In golf, it could be a commercial real estate agent [who has] the best short game in the world,” Lindzon said.
The StockTwits founder is referring to Parker McLachlin, better known as Short Game Chef.
McLachlin has just a single PGA Tour championship to his credit. However, the Phoenix local has amassed a large social following (think: 143K on IG) by providing tips to execute ones’ short game like a pro. Steph Curry is among his supporters.
“If he shows up at a golf event, he’ll be as famous as [the NBA star],” Lindzon said.
Historically speaking, local legends have struggled to convert their fame into a business. But that has changed over the last decade as social platforms, new technologies, and countless challenger leagues have emerged.
McLachlin has found a unique, and potentially lucrative, way to monetize his fan base.
“He cut himself [an equity] deal at our golf course because he’s [viewed as] an instrumental face for short game instruction,” Lindzon said. Now, “we’re building [him] a special short-game practice facility so that he can practice his trade, go on Instagram, and promote the course [and his business].”
McLachlin probably won’t become a billionaire from his stake in the Grass Clippings Rolling Hills venture, but his growing business and upside reflects the opportunity at hand for individuals with a unique skill/talent/expertise and following.
They are “going to [be] the new artiste,” Lindzon said.
Editor Note: Lindzon and Ehrenberg will be discussing how ‘local legends’ figure into the ‘degenerate economy’ at the Next.io event in New York City. JohnWallStreet is hosting a fireside with the duo as part of a day long sports and media track on March 7.
This event will sell out (it does every year). Buy your ticket now to ensure a seat and do so using the code JWSNYC. You’ll get a 5% discount and it will support our efforts!
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