News & Opinion

‘Beef’ and Arby’s serve up Tour’s tasty new combo

DUBLIN, Ohio – The PGA Tour owes a big “thank you” to Andrew Johnston, known among golf fans worldwide as “Beef.”

Johnston, the affable Englishman, brought Arby’s into golf last year when he signed a sponsorship deal with the Sandy Springs, Ga.-based fast-food chain renowned for its roast-beef sandwiches.

On Wednesday, Arby’s was introduced as the “official restaurant of the PGA Tour” in a four-year deal that provides the company with its only sports platform.

For Arby’s, creating a relationship with a player nicknamed Beef seemed like a natural fit, similar to soft-drink brand Dr Pepper’s signing of Dottie Pepper when she played on the LPGA.

But it was much more than that for Arby’s, which wanted a deeper connection with a player than a mere logo on his chest. Johnston, 28, who broke through by winning the European Tour’s 2016 Spanish Open, earned a PGA Tour card last season. He stands No. 117 in the Official World Golf Ranking.

In a recent video developed by the European Tour (http://bit.ly/2qHGmtQ), Johnston displays a playfulness that appealed to Arby’s.

“When you get to meet him, he is actually one of the most authentic and engaging guys you're going to meet in professional sports,” Rob Lynch, Arby’s chief marketing officer, said here at Muirfield Village Golf Club, site of this week’s Memorial Tournament. “Once we got to spend some time with him and got to really see kind of how he approached the game and how he took golf really seriously, but he didn't take himself really seriously. We always talk about how we take our food seriously, but we don't take ourselves seriously, and it just seemed like a good fit.”

(For Johnston’s Arby’s promotion, click here: http://bit.ly/2rltICW.)

To inject more fun into golf, which has been struggling to attract a new generation of players, an effervescent personality such as Johnston’s is essential to the game’s future.

The PGA Tour obviously agreed, approaching Arby’s late last year to become involved at a higher level. Upon taking a closer look at its customers, Arby’s found that they like golf.

“Golf sometimes is perceived as this kind of elitist sport and only a few people play it,” Lynch said. “The reality is, of the 26 million people who play golf in America, probably 20 million of them are just everyday folks who get out there on the weekend, go to work on Monday, get off on Friday and like to spend time with their buddies or their friends on the weekends. So, I think that that's what we're actually trying to give back to the Tour, is we're trying to create a more everyday golfer or, you know, type of sponsorship here where we actually engage those types of focuses.”

Alex Miceli is the founder and publisher of Morning Read. Email: alex@morningread.com; Twitter: @AlexMiceli