European Tour video puts US rival in shade in social media stakes
While there has been plenty of discussion about the European Tour playing second fiddle to its American counterpart, there is little doubt it leads the way in one vital element for the game.
The continental circuit comprehensively outguns the PGA Tour when it comes to social media content and promoting its star players.
This may seem small beer compared with the gargantuan prize funds and stellar fields Stateside, but it is thought to be crucial to the promotion of golf.
The tour is making great efforts to take the sport to new audiences. Its newest offering, a film called The Content Committee is the latest example.
This four-minute mockumentary starring Tommy Fleetwood, Henrik Stenson, Eddie Pepperell, Thomas Bjorn and Lee Westwood is a clever, witty addition to social media channels.
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And it comes at a time when golf is often marginalised in terms of traditional coverage. This is a prime example of the tour exploring other avenues to stimulate interest in its golfers and the game at large.
Ironically, The Content Committee, unlike most of their other films, does not include any golf whatsoever. Instead, it plays to the personalities of the players, seeking to bring them alive as characters.
"The players are now buying into this and have done for a wee while," Tom Greaves, who leads the production of original content for the tour, told the BBC golf podcast The Cut.
"I suppose that's a lot to do with trust. Obviously, we have very good relationships with the players but I think it takes a bit of time to build up the trust with them that we know what we're doing and that we execute it well."
So, before last week's Abu Dhabi Championship, the big-name quintet were taken into an imaginary boardroom and given what, at first glance, must have seemed an off-the-wall script.
"The concept is that the European Tour players are now in charge of the next viral video and that they're sick and tired of the ideas that we have come up with," Greaves explained. "They are coming up with the next idea."
But the script still had to be delivered. It helped that Fleetwood enjoyed drama at school, but the thousands who have now watched it will acknowledge the narrative is convincingly delivered by all of the participants.
"We really didn't have any idea until they came into the room and did the first couple of scenes how good they would be," Greaves said.
"It's a tough proposition to get five world-class sportsmen to deliver quite a tough brief, to be dry, low-key with naturalistic acting."
Perhaps the only genuine sentiment in the entire piece came, somewhat hammed-up, from the European Tour's chief executive Keith Pelley.
"You know it's pretty simple," he said. "Everybody knows that and here at the European Tour content is king."
It follows a succession of films including Little Billy Interviews where a young boy asked the likes of Rory McIlroy and Bjorn a string of cheeky and awkward questions.
There have been attempts to complete a hole in world-record time, efforts to make a hole-in-one on a given day and the delightful car journey given to a youngster by Andrew "Beef" Johnston, Justin Rose, Stenson and Martin Kaymer.
The idea behind them all is very straightforward. "Allowing European Tour and golf fans to see what their heroes are really like," Greaves stated.
While this latest offering was tightly scripted, there was still room for a bit of freestyle, particularly Pepperell's heavily bleeped explanation of his idea for the project.
"His bit was so risky and controversial, he could say whatever he liked and he knew we would bleep it out," Greaves added.
"It was Eddie Pepperell's brand, everyone knows he's fantastic on social media and we wanted to give the guys the chance to portray themselves as they actually are. The roles were based on what they are actually like."
It makes for fun viewing, but comes from strong tour commitment and proper investment because of the perceived importance of these projects.
"Engaging not just a youth audience but a different audience, is absolutely up at the top in terms of priorities," Greaves said.
"We are trying to get golf out there and the European Tour as a brand and this is a great avenue for it."
This latest film has been picked up by plenty of content providers and social media avenues. This site showed it prominently from the moment it was released last week, asking if it was the funniest golf film ever made?
Connoisseurs of classics such as Caddie Shack might beg to differ, but the impact the European Tour is making cannot be denied. Hundreds of thousands of people have now engaged with players that some may never have heard of before.
"Numbers are a big thing but what we hope is that positive sentiment is a big part of how we are recognised," Greaves said.
Borrowing from one of the content committee's ideas, he added: "You could have a cat playing the piano on YouTube that gets 53 million hits, but what does that mean if it's just chasing numbers?
"It's got to be something that people appreciate and like and approve of."
They seem to doing exactly that, portraying their core product of golf with a sense of fun and mischief, yet with the serious objective of promoting their brand and the game in general.