Wixom, Mich.-based Discraft Inc. has signed a $10 million sponsor deal with the world's best disc golfer, marking a new chapter for the fast-growing sport and tightening the company's grip on it.
The 10-year deal with top Professional Disc Golf Association player Paul McBeth, announced Feb. 24, is the largest in the sport's history. It's expected to fuel demand for Discraft discs, which have sold like hotcakes during the pandemic, Chief Operations Officer Mike Wagner said.
The injection molding company cannot pump them out fast enough. It is investing "multiple millions of dollars" to expand its Wixom manufacturing facility and headquarters. In the past two years, the company has doubled in size in terms of sales and employees, and production has more than doubled since the pandemic started — but that's still not enough.
"It's just so chaotic right now," Wagner told Crain's Detroit Business, sister publication of Plastics News. "The sport's growing so quickly. At some point you'd think it would level off, but I don't see it leveling off soon."
What began out of a small garage in Westland, Mich., in 1979 has grown into the second-largest disc golf supplier in the world. Keeping McBeth under contract is key to Discraft's long-term growth goals, said Wagner, who hopes to unseat its California-based rival, Innova Disc Golf, as top manufacturer.
McBeth had repped for Innova before defecting to Discraft, whose endorsement spending has ballooned in recent years. The company also sponsors Paige Pierce, the world's top-rated female professional disc golfer, and YouTube celebrity Brodie Smith.
McBeth, though, is largely credited with helping graduate the game out of relative obscurity. ESPN even televised a tournament last year, launching it further into the mainstream. Once looked at as a "stoner sport" by outsiders, the game is gaining traction, especially among outdoor-oriented millennials. Disc golf is played in about 40 countries by an estimated 4 million to 8 million people per year. Wagner said that equates to anywhere from 20 million to 40 million discs sold annually by just a few companies.
Wagner declined to discuss financials or specifics on production capacity. Such details are kept under a tight lid in the small, highly competitive disc golf manufacturing industry, he said. There are just a few big players in the market, including another in Michigan — Marlette-based MVP Disc Sports LLC.
"Everyone's kind of fighting for their stake," he said.
McBeth has made Discraft a lot of money — enough money that the company restructured an existing contract signed in 2018 to pay him more. It was a preemptive move to retain the "face of disc golf," as Wagner referred to him. And it was only fair, added Bob Julio, team manager at Discraft.
"We realized the initial agreement we had with him was kind of outdated after the first year," Julio said. "We went in not knowing his value. After the first year, with the sport growing and his popularity growing, we realized the initial contract wasn't sustainable."
For McBeth, the sponsorship has allowed him to take a more hands-on approach and launch a custom line of discs.
"I felt like I have more goals and a bigger vision, and with Discraft, they allowed me to bring that vision to light, and they worked with it," McBeth said in a video announcing the deal.