Three Reasons Brodie Smith Could Be A Game Changer for Disc Golf

By Josh Woods ~

Cover art

If you go back to late November 2019 on Brodie Smith’s Twitter feed and scan the posts until December 27, this is what you’ll find:

  • Pro football
  • Pro football
  • Pro football
  • Pro football
  • Pro football
  • More pro football
  • Ball golf
  • Naked dude on roller skates
  • College football
  • John C. Reilly
  • Flaming baton twirler
  • Ball golf
  • Ball golf
  • Ball golf
  • More ball golf
  • Just, like, tons of ball golf stuff (and without Bill Murray … yeesh)
  • Ball golf
  • Ball golf
  • A nodding Robert Redford in Jeremiah Johnson looking like Zach Galifianakis
  • Ball golf
  • Cool Runnings
  • Excellent puffin shirt
  • Over-the-top wedding video
  • Nostalgic Christmas card photo

And then this:

1 Disc golf journey begins

Wait, what?

In late 2019, the 32-year-old, professional ultimate player turned social media darling, best known for his Frisbee trick shots, made another big life change. Although he had been pursuing a career as a professional ball golfer, he suddenly dropped the sticks and picked up the plastic.

What happens next is mind-blowing. Mr. Smith somehow traverses the ten major milestones of a disc golf career in two weeks.

1) He becomes a PDGA member.

2 pdga membership

2) Starts practicing day and night.

3 Practices day and night

3) Hits his wife with a disc.

4 hits wife

4) Witnesses his first ace.

5 witnesses ace

5) Practices putting in the house.

6 practices in house

6) Brings a disc everywhere he goes.
7 brings disc on hike

7) Dons Paul McBeth swag.

8 Dons Mcbeth trucker hat

8) Appears on SmashBoxxTV (#280)

9) Throws a backhand 500 feet.

9 throws 500 feet

10) Signs a contract with Discraft.

10 Signs with Discraft

This is not just another thirty-something-year-old white guy catching the disc golf bug. There are three reasons to believe that Brodie Smith could transform the disc golf industry.

He’s Good and May Be Very Good Very Soon

Mr. Smith could throw a Frisbee trick shot from the wing of a Blue Angel fighter jet, but he still won’t make a splash in disc golf unless he can win tournaments.

That may not be a problem for Mr. Smith.

Although he has not yet played in a sanctioned tournament and remains reticent about his skill level, there’s at least one clue about his current rating. Way back on January 4 (yes, like two weeks ago), Mr. Smith posted his scores for a causal round at the John-Houck designed McCord Park course in Little Elm, Texas.

Carding a bodie-free, nine-under 45, he beat Mark Reddoch (#21655, current rating: 922), Casey Fortune (#21614, current Rating: 831) and “Chuck” (my kind of guy).

First round of disc golf

Perusing the PDGA database for comparable tournament rounds at McCord Park, I’m guessing that Mr. Smith’s current skill level is somewhere around that of a 950-rated player. Even with a wide margin of error on this estimate, Smith has clearly arrived in disc golf land with impressive talent. Given his plans to attend a “disc golf boot camp” with Paul McBeth and Simon Lizotte later this month, Mr. Smith could be scary good in a hurry.

score card

He’s the Most Powerful Influencer in Disc Golf

If you study the recent histories of other emerging sports, like skateboarding or BMX, you’ll learn that social media played a key role in their rapid developments. Social media allow fringe sports to gain greater visibility and reach a broader audience, while bypassing the exclusive mainstream broadcast networks.

But, to go viral, small sports need big stars with big personalities who possess cross-over appeal and who are driven not only to succeed on the field, but also in the Twittersphere.

While some may wonder if Mr. Smith is a real-deal disc golfer, there’s no questioning his star power on social media, nor his aptitude for milking the disc golf fan base for all its worth. As illustrated in Table 1, his followings on YouTube, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter eclipse those of top-rated players from the MPO and FPO.

Table 1. Social Media Presence of Brodie Smith, Paul McBeth and Paige Pierce

Player YouTube

(subscribers)

Instagram

(followers)

Facebook

(page likes)

Twitter

(followers)

Brodie Smith 2,190,000 970,000 544,000 930,100
Paul McBeth 26,000 104,000 19,600 23,100
Paige Pierce 5,400 40,100 14,400 9,900

The question is, when it comes to selling discs, what’s more important? Winning big tournaments or propelling social media engagement? These two things usually go together. For instance, when Paul McBeth moved from Innova to Discraft in 2018, he showed that having the best of both worlds—glorious talent and a big fan base—can be converted into a million-dollar paycheck, as well as rising sales figures for his new sponsor.

Given Mr. Smith’s obvious lack of world championships, Discraft is betting on his power as an influencer, which is, in my view, a smart gamble. Influencer marketing is already the go-to sales pitch for the major disc brands. But Mr. Smith may take the influence game to another level and disrupt the industry’s current strategy of trying to organize numerous nano-influencers around a single brand.

He’s a Cinderella Storyteller

The cleverness of Discraft’s partnership with Mr. Smith should be traced not only to the notable size of his social media following, but also to the reason he has one in the first place. Surely his incredible trick shot videos are a big part of it, and his celebrity within ultimate Frisbee (and to some extent ball golf and reality TV) doesn’t hurt either. But the reason he is so valuable as a disc golf influencer rests on his ability to tell a good story.

To make it big in any sport, it’s not enough to “stand out,” or “be unique,” as many disc golf pros seem to think. Pumping out a string of extraordinary but disconnected social media posts quickly becomes a sideshow, a series of temporary amusements whose effects wear off in the time it takes to walk by or keep scrolling.

Only an athlete with a compelling narrative keeps people coming back for more.

Mr. Smith has been a disc golfer for like ten seconds and millions of people already know his story: he rises to greatness in ultimate, sustains brutal injuries, falls from athletic glory, is reborn the Trickster King on YouTube, tries to go pro in ball golf, fails to make the cut, and now the Cinderella man is brushing off the ashes and starting anew in disc golf.

Having courage

Can he do it? Can an ultimate player transition to disc golf successfully? What will happen to him along the way? Will the glass slipper fit? Will the masses rejoice? Discraft gambled on Mr. Smith not because of his amusing trick shots, but because lots of people want answers to these questions, and Mr. Smith is able and willing to arrange them in an interesting story.

Is Brodie Smith’s new romance with disc golf similar to Michael Jordan’s foray into baseball? Not exactly. But their tales share a common thread – namely, the slightly annoying story arc where a hero enjoys a privileged social position, and yet, plays the role of a courageous underdog (Last Samurai, anyone?).

For this reason, it doesn’t really matter if things go sideways for Mr. Smith in the near term. As he begins a tournament career in disc golf, the bumps and bruises he experiences – even humiliating defeats – will only enhance his story and keep people curious. A long string of mildly disappointing performances could hurt his brand, but he really has nothing to lose for the time being.

In fact, all the pressure is on his competition. If the top professionals beat him, they just beat a noob. Congratulations. (Don’t forget to call Mom). But if Mr. Smith rises to the top of the MPO in an upcoming tournament, the pros will have lost to a noob who is sure to tell two million people about it.

The only way Mr. Smith can lose is by failing to be earnest. His current passion for disc golf seems authentic in his nonstop social media posts. But if his disc golf journey begins to look more like a publicity stunt than a hero’s quest, most fans will turn away from the sideshow and keep scrolling.

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Parked is made possible in part by a grant from the Professional Disc Golf Association.

6 thoughts on “Three Reasons Brodie Smith Could Be A Game Changer for Disc Golf

  1. I apologize if posting your rating was a bit intrusive. Just going after the story. Any thoughts on Mr. Smith’s current skill level? I’d love to hear about the round.

    Like

  2. Sorry, I don’t do Social media, so I don’t have a clue who this guy is? (I try to spend as much time as I can outside.) Can’t believe you would even compare him to Pierce or McBeth in followers?(like that matters.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Talk about missing the point of the article… Let’s just compare to boxing for a second: Connor McGregor is not a boxer. When he fought Floyd Mayweather Jr., it did record business. He helped Mayweather bring record eyeballs.

      The point is this guy might be a competitive disc golfer and elevate the sport in other ways.

      Liked by 1 person

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