The Fey and the Furious: Two Strains of Golf's Media Representation

Golf in the wider mainstream media is often represented in one of two ways–the fey and the furious. Here are two recent ads that demonstrate the bipolar nature of golf in advertising.

The first probably occurs when someone at a brainstorming session says, “You know what’s funny? Golf.” This fires the well-worn neural pathways that find humor in the juxtaposition of violence with the genteel Game of Kings. The movie “Caddyshack” mined this territory effectively (though only as a part of a larger comedic strategy), while “Happy Gilmore” placed it front and center in the narrative, perhaps most famously with Adam Sandler’s over-the-top brawl with retired game show host Bob Barker.

When this ironic distance is sought, marketers seek to inject golf with more-aggressive norms commonly seen in major sports or in the culture at large. This is the mentality that leads to faux “edgy” spots like this one for Craftsman, produced by Young & Rubicam Chicago. I usually think of this as a technique to reach a younger demographic, so it’s interesting that it has been deployed in the service of selling hammers, and probably sensible: Many people acquire tools at some point in college and keep them forever.

When golf is approached without irony, it is frequently seen as a disposable piece of the affluent consumerist lifestyle (“the fey”). Here’s Lance Armstrong in a current ad for Michelob Ultra, produced by Euro RSCG, also out of Chicago.

What does it say about the wider perception of golf when perhaps the preeminent endurance athlete of his generation is depicted as playing cart golf? He can run and cycle, chase tail (implied) and schmooze at the bar, but when it comes to golf, it’s all about minimal effort–go ahead, pull the cart right up on the tee box, the greenkeeper won’t care. Golf is what studs do when they’re feeling lazy.

Which mode do you think is worse?


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