Sports

LIV Golf’s Few Fans Would Still Rather Watch the PGA Tour

As its first year comes to a close, the upstart golf circuit lags behind the established PGA Tour in viewing interest, per a new Morning Consult survey

LIV Golf Invitational Phil Mickelson
Phil Mickelson plays during day two of the LIV Golf Invitational in King Abdullah Economic City, Saudi Arabia. Even the league's self-identified fans say they'd rather watch the PGA Tour. (Photo by Charles Laberge/LIV Golf via Getty Images)

Beginning Friday, the new LIV Golf venture concludes its inaugural eight-event slate with a $50 million team championship at Trump National Doral’s Blue Monster course in Miami. As the Saudi-backed league heads into 2023, though, it still needs to solve one key issue: how to grow its fan base.

A new Morning Consult survey revealed that the biggest obstacle in LIV Golf’s uphill climb to relevance is a lack of interest in watching it. A majority of self-identified LIV fans (58%) said they haven’t watched any of the series’ seven prior 2022 tournaments. 

In fact, that cohort said they’re still more interested in watching the PGA Tour (79%) than LIV (70%) — despite the addition of big-name players such as 2022 British Open champion Cameron Smith and veterans Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson.

Golf Fans Are Much More Interested in PGA than LIV

Respondents were asked how interested they are in watching the following golf entities:

Survey conducted Oct. 22-23, 2022, among a representative sample of 2,210 U.S. adults, with an unweighted margin of error of +/-2 percentage points.

More on the LIV Golf audience 

  • Roughly 2 in 5 self-identified fans of any golf league (43%) said they are at least “somewhat interested” in watching LIV Golf, which has aired for free on YouTube in the United States, drawing modest viewership numbers in year one. Comparatively, 71% of the same group of respondents expressed interest in watching the PGA Tour.
  • About half of LIV Golf fans said they either “somewhat support” or “strongly support” the Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund’s involvement in golf, compared with fewer than 1 in 5 general sports fans (19%) who said the same. To date, the PIF has bankrolled LIV Golf with a multi-billion dollar fund to support some of the players’ reported nine-figure contracts.
Golf Fans More Likely to Support Than Oppose Brand Endorsements of LIV Golfers

Respondents were asked if they support or oppose corporate sponsors’ choosing to endorse players who compete in LIV Golf

Survey conducted Oct. 22-23, 2022, among a representative sample of 2,210 U.S. adults, with an unweighted margin of error of +/-2 percentage points.

The relationship between LIV Golf players and advertisers 

  • About 7 in 10 LIV Golf fans (72%) said they at least “somewhat support” sponsors’ choosing to endorse players who compete in LIV Golf, compared with 31% of sports fans and 49% of fans of any golf league, respectively. Several blue-chip advertisers ended marketing deals with LIV Golf players including Mickelson, Lee Westwood and Bryson DeChambeau after they joined the new series. 
  • U.S. adults overall narrowly support brands’ endorsements of LIV golfers (25% support vs. 17% oppose), though the majority did not know or had no opinion (58%). 

Can LIV secure sponsorship and media partners? 

The Saudi-backed circuit, led by golf legend and chief executive Greg Norman, has not brokered any meaningful brand deals in year one. Its ambition remains high, though, as the series reportedly aims to secure over $120 million in annual sponsorship revenue amid its ongoing search for a U.S. media rights partner. It has even experimented with different technological integrations in hopes of making the on-air product more appealing. 

Perhaps in year two, LIV Golf’s fans will tune in to see those broadcast enhancements. But the question remains if there will be a meaningful number of them around to see the changes.

The Oct. 22-23, 2022 survey was conducted among a representative sample of 2,210 U.S. adults, including 309 self-identified LIV Golf fans and 618 self-identified PGA fans, with unweighted margins of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points, plus or minus 6 percentage points and plus or minus 4 percentage points, respectively. The survey also included 1,543 self-identified sports fans and 689 self-identified fans of any golf league, with unweighted margins of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points and plus or minus 4 percentage points, respectively.