— The sports viewing public has become immune to incessant advertising, so the gallery at the TPC River Highlands may have missed Michael Allen's bag over the past few days.
But the PGA Tour veteran could be on the cutting edge of event advertising with a bag that features a video panel on the side. A series of ads change every 10 seconds or so on the 8-by-10-inch monitor, plugging everything from a local delivery service to a few of Allen's favorite charities.
So beyond the usual brand names brandishing the bag, there are ever-changing sponsors reaching the masses watching from the gallery or on TV.
"I think people notice it," Allen said after his round Friday. "At the same time, it is subtle. It's not distracting, which is important."
The video screen bag, which debuted last year, is produced by Arizona-based ProBagAds. The company's owner, Joe Kirkpatrick, conceived of the idea about 12 years ago when he was playing professionally.
But technology made it impossible to install a screen light enough to make the product practical. As years passed, Kirkpatrick didn't abandon his idea.
"Bags would have weighed 80 or 90 pounds back then and no one was going to carry that," Kirkpatrick said. "We stayed on top of battery technology, because most of the weight comes from the battery. We got to the point where batteries are 4 1/2 or 5 pounds."
A full bag is about 17 pounds, so the bag that debuted at the PGA Championship last year was about 21 pounds. The screen was also lower on the bag and there were issues with a zipper framing the pouch that displayed the screen. After some tinkering, this year's version carries a lighter battery and is about the same weight as any other bag. The screen can be seen from about 40 yards on the course and can run up to 25 ads.
Kirkpatrick said about 20 spots are devoted to paid sponsors and at least five are reserved for charities. The device has Wi-Fi capacity, so spots can be downloaded remotely.
"The big thing is, we don't want a 'Caddyshack' deal," Kirkpatrick said. "We want it to be good quality images, tasteful, but not over the top."
The ads are intended for viewers and not other golfers, so it's the responsibility of the caddie to position the bag in the right direction.
"It can't be something that bothers the players," said Allen, who missed the cut by one shot. "As long as we're doing it properly, it's all good."
Kirkpatrick has sponsorship deals with Allen and Michael Bradley on the PGA Tour. Aaron Watkins uses the bag on the Nationwide Tour and Kirkpatrick expects to add players on the LPGA Tour.
Allen said tour officials are OK with the screens, as long as the bags don't become a distraction. And players who were initially skeptical last year are inquiring about the bag this year.
"Really, guys don't notice it right away," Allen said. "But once they see it, they ask questions. They want to be part of it."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun