The American corporation is a magnificent creature, capable of acts of nimbleness and dynamism that make it the wonder of the institutional world and the envy of governments and not-for-profits.
Everyone would like to be this responsive…and almost no one but the corporation is. (Imagine what a handful of fire breathing American corporations could do for the common good of France, Iraq or for that matter Canada?)
But there are pockets of resistance inside the corporation. There are still time-servers and nay-sayers who harken back to another era. These people happily spend the resources of the corporation making sure it is kept from its dynamic, most responsive, best.
Which brings me to the game of golf. Let me put my cards on the table. I don’t play golf. I don’t spend a lot of time with people who do play. This means I have failed the first objective of anthropological inquiry: to see the consumer, the activity, from the inside out. But I am going to shoot my mouth off anyhow. (Cause that’s what blogging’s for.)
Here’s what I suspect: that golf is a friend of the most anti-dynamic people in the corporation. Golf is the time-server’s solace. It is the nay-sayer’s comfort. In sum, golf’s the friend of the enemy of the corporation.
Let me enter into evidence that fact the color commentators commit unashamed acts of aggression against the language.
"He’s charging up the back 9."
"Things got wild at Augusta again today."
"They are duking it out on 7!"
Wha? This language is always applied to middle aged men of transcendental serenity delivering a tiny object up and down a park-like setting. Charging? Wild? Duking? I don’t think so.
But yesterday, I found evidence to the contrary. Thanks to an ad from Rolex, I know there’s something more going on. In the current issue of Forbes, an ad shows Phil Mickelson in action under the title "Golf Club or magic wand?" The copy:
No one knows how he does it, but Phil Mickelson has become one of the game’s all-time greats by taking chances other pros won’t. From skipping a ball off a lake on to the green for an eagle, to playing chip shots that fly backwards over his head, Phil’s daring and creative game is a magical thing to behold.
Now this is more like it. It sounds like Mickelson is an exemplar of the new American corporation. CEOs are now learning how to take chances other corporations won’t. They are searching for way to skip opportunities off unlikely surfaces and play shots that appear to leave the competitive arena only to arc backwards into play. Mickelson is a golfer these guys can relate to. Maybe golf is a better training ground than I knew.
Lucky Rolex. It looks like they signed up the one guy who looks like the new corporation. But what do we say about the other players who look to golf for marketing exposure and celebrity endorsement? Accenture, Royal Scottish Bank, insurance companies, office supplies, there are lots of companies that look to golf for marketing partnership and meaning manufacture. Maybe, they are behind the curve or, more probably, I just don’t know what I’m talking about.
Anon. 2006. Golf Club or Magic Wand [a four color, two page ad for Rolex]. Forbes. May 7, 2006, pp. 16-17. (if anyone knows the agency and creative team responsible for this campaign, please let me know.)
The photo is courtesy of Gaylord Sports Management, Mickelson’s agent in matters of celebrity endorsement here.