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Is Ian Poulter the 'P Diddy' of golf?

By Will Tidey for CNN
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Golfer Ian Poulter turned professional in 1995, and has won 10 European Tour events
  • He's also represented Europe at the Ryder Cup three teams, in 2004, 2006 and 2010
  • In 2007 Poulter launched his own clothing label, fulfilling a lifetime ambition
  • With over 1.1 million fans on Twitter, he's been labeled golf's second biggest brand

(CNN) -- One is a hip-hop superstar and music mogul who dazzles audiences with his lyrical prowess, the other is a gregarious golfer who fights with the world's best to sink balls in the fewest shots.

Their professions may be world's apart but rapper Sean "P Diddy" Combs and Ian Poulter have more in common than first meets the eye.

That's because Combs and Poulter -- who are both ferocious self-publicists, lovers of the high life and boast their own clothing lines -- are two examples of celebrities building business around their personalities.

"Brand Poulter" may have some way to go to match the Combs empire -- which includes a record label, restaurants and advertising operations worth $475 million according to Forbes Magazine -- but his entrepreneurial endeavour is showing promise.

"Poulter is a fascinating character, who's developed his brand in a very interesting and idiosyncratic way," said Gary Firkins, managing director of golf PR firm Landmark Media.

For a player who is ranked 16 in the world and who has never won a major championship, the 35 year old has over a million followers on Twitter; a following which has led industry experts to call him golf's "biggest brand" outside of Tiger Woods, who has only 750, 000 followers.

The strength of his personality is allowed to shine through, and people feel like they know him
--Gary Firkins, Landmark Media
RELATED TOPICS
  • Golf
  • Ian Poulter
  • PGA European Tour
  • Ryder Cup

"[Via Twitter] the strength of his personality is allowed to shine through, and people feel like they know him," Firkins added.

Poulter's clothing label, IJP Design, launched in 2007. And while it's yet to return a profit, the residual benefits to the Englishman's celebrity have been obvious.

"I always wanted to have my own fashion line," Poulter told CNN. "My mum worked in the fashion industry, and one of my first jobs was selling clothes on a market stall.

"You definitely need to have an interest in what you wear and what looks good. My philosophy has always been 'look good, play great' -- it may not matter so much to others, but it works for me."

Poulter's style is not to everybody's taste. At the 2004 British Open, he wore a pair of union jack trousers and a backwards flat cap. The following year his trousers were emblazoned with the tournament's famous trophy -- the sacred Claret Jug.

It was the marriage of loud clothes and strutting confidence that earned Poulter the "peacock" tag he resents to this day, and helped make him one of golf's most divisive personalities.

He didn't help his cause with a rather bold claim in January 2008. "I haven't played to my full potential and when that happens, it will be just me and Tiger (Woods)," Poulter said.

You definitely need to have an interest in what you wear and what looks good. My philosophy has always been 'look good, play great'
--Ian Poulter

To some it was arrogance, to others a refreshing moment of honesty. But, like his choice of trousers, everybody in golf was talking about it.

"In a world where athletes are so closely managed, Poulter brings a heart-on-the-sleeve honesty that appeals to people," said Firkins.

"He's allowed to express himself, and in this internet age -- where people demand openness and honesty, he very much suits the culture. People respond to him."

It is on the internet that Poulter is concentrating much of his marketing effort -- with the launch of a web site home for the "pro golfer, fashion designer and personality," and a Twitter account with 1.1 million followers.

In golfing circles, only 2009 British Open champion Stewart Cink has bigger numbers on Twitter (1.2 million), while P Diddy has 3.5 million followers.

"I love Twitter as it allows me to give my fans an inside view to what's going on in my world," Poulter said.

"It doesn't matter if its video or pictures or just 140 characters, it's a great way to give some insight into my life."

It is a colorful life that Poulter spends between Milton Keynes and Florida these days -- one that allows him to indulge his passions for football and basketball, with regular trips to watch Arsenal and the Orlando Magic.

I love Twitter as it allows me to give my fans an inside view to what's going on in my world
--Ian Poulter

And then there's his collection of luxury cars to maintain. Poulter's garage boasts a Bentley Continental GT, a Ford GT, Nissan GTR, an Aston Martin DB9 and a Mercedes Benz GT -- to name but a few.

When you factor in time for his family -- Poulter is married to Katie and has three children -- it is maybe not surprising he is regularly asked if he gives enough time to the sport that made it all possible.

"You can't hit golf balls 24/7, you need some kind of a life," Poulter said.

"I have that with my other interests. I get 26 weeks off a year and there is enough time in a day to enjoy many interests."

On the course, Poulter's most notable successes have come in the Ryder Cup. Three times he's represented Europe in the biennial match against the United States, winning eight of his 11 matches and endearing himself to millions in the process.

The closest he came to winning a major championship was a runners-up finish in 2008, but that hasn't stopped his global brand reaching an appeal far in excess of all but one of the active players who've managed the feat.

"You only have to see the ticket sales when Poulter plays in a tournament to see the power of his brand," said Neil Gray, of golf marketing firm GMS.

"From our perspective in England, the only brand bigger in golf right now is Tiger Woods."