Remembering golfer and sponsorship pioneer Arnold Palmer

The athlete brought golf to the masses, inspiring many to pick up the sport—and showing other stars how to work with organizations via endorsements.

For many, a recent Arnold Palmer reference in “The Simpson’s” 28th season premiere became an eerie tribute.

The golfing great known as “The King” died Sunday after struggling with heart problems. Palmer was 87 years old.

He won seven majors in his career—which included clinching the British Open in 1961 and 1962—and racked up 62 PGA Tour victories.

He’s also recognized for bringing golf to the masses. CNN reported that the “now billion-dollar industry worldwide” happened “in large part because of [Palmer’s] legacy.”

Athletes, politicians, golfing organizations and more shared tributes on Twitter:

One needn’t be a fan of the link—nor of Palmer’s famed lemonade and iced tea concoction—to appreciate the late golfer’s legacy, however. He paved the way for other athletes to partner with organizations through endorsement deals.

The BBC’s Bill Wilson wrote:

Arnold Palmer was the first golf player to make $1m from playing the sport.

But he made much more than that from his many off-course endorsements, putting his name to a variety of products and services, from United Airlines to Cadillac cars.

Wilson continued that although it’s now common for athletes to have endorsement and sponsorship contracts, roughly 50 years ago those partnerships were “ground-breaking”:

With his winning persona and looks, not to mention golfing ability, Palmer showed that a sportsman or woman could make more from commercial deals than from prize money alone.

It is a legacy for which today’s high earning stars, earning astronomical sums from their own deals, should be eternally grateful.

Throughout his life, Palmer was a model for athletes seeking sponsorships. Forbes contributor Patrick Rishe wrote:

When you talk about all the E-Score metrics pertaining to personality characteristics that corporations and fans resonant with, The King had all of them.

Likability. Trust. Hero. Champion. Attractiveness. Charisma. Longevity. Humility.

According to one report, Palmer amassed $675 million in his lifetime. And as recently as early 2014, a Forbes report estimated he earned $40 million annually in product endorsements.

At the age of 85!

Sponsorship contracts and endorsement opportunities can now come as much from YouTube and Twitch as they do from Olympic pools and golf tournaments, but Palmer’s ability to capture audiences’ attention and work with organizations is admirable whether you’re an athlete or a PR/marketing pro.

RELATED: Tell better brand stories on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and your blog.

For those looking to secure a new client, sponsor or contract, perhaps one of Palmer’s oft-quoted witticisms can inspire you:

The most rewarding things you do in life are often the ones that look like they cannot be done.

(Image via)

Topics: PR

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