Roger Duthie Interview

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President & Founder BearFish Sports Marketing / BearFish Sports Apparel.
Posted on
January 22, 2023
M. James Ward in
Estimated reading time: 8 minutes


Having worked in a management role for one of the world’s most visible brands – Emirates Airline - for over 19 years, Roger Duthie has negotiated and overseen contracts with some of the biggest sporting teams in the world and managed a budget of more than $300 million.

He has deep ties with the DP World Tour (formerly the PGA European Tour), The Ryder Cup, the PGA Tour, the Asian Tour, and several players in golf.

With a track record in sports marketing and sponsorship that is hard to replicate, Duthie set up BearFish Sports Marketing to deliver high profile partnerships to clients who want to generate brand awareness, expand their audience, and grow their business.

His passion for golf fashion led him to design and create BearFish ( BF) sports and lifestyle caps. Seeking a new design that can function effectively with the sunny conditions in Dubai, he designed a lightweight cap with a blend of breathable materials suitable for hot climate.

The Duthie Story

I learned my trade working for the best airline in the world, Emirates Airline. I came to Dubai for two years but twenty plus years later, two children, two dogs and a slew of wonderful experiences has enabled me to start my own Sports Marketing Consultancy as well as my own outdoor sports/lifestyle apparel business.

I can’t think of living anywhere else in the world but Dubai. It’s a fabulous, diverse, inclusive community where citizens and residents alike respect and are polite to each other. I love it.

There is not one specific moment at Emirates I can call out but too many to mention. Emirates entrusted me with the opportunity to help build the brand using sports, arts and culture as a communications platform to where we became one of the world’s most successful airlines.



What was the genesis for BearFish Sports Apparel?

The BearFish Sports Apparel Brand comes under the BearFish Sports Group. We launched the apparel brand recently, but we really are a Sports Marketing Consultancy servicing global clients. I’ve grown the business to where I can now focus a little bit more on the apparel side of the company, but we are far from done.

The Apparel business was a passion of mine that quickly turned into a proper business pillar. I haven’t really found headwear that I liked from a color and texture perspective, so I created my own.

What makes the headwear you produce superior to that of your competitors?

For starters, I do believe there are many good hats on the market so I am not sure we are better than our competitors, but I think the colors of the bigger brands are becoming dull. Our colors are quite bright and make a statement, but we also have more conservative colors too.

I believe our stylish ranges are at the top-end of the headwear market with a premium, semi-soft crushproof carry case to protect them during travel or storage. The case, colors and materials to protect customers from the heat, especially in places like Dubai, is what also inspired the brand. I’ve ensured that the latest fabric technology is incorporated into every design with attention to detail and dedicated to the pursuit of the perfect cap that can stand the test of time.

This is not just a commercial venture but passion and love I have for my children, BearFish is a combination of their nicknames, who inspire me every day and I believe people can relate to that. We are a fresh challenger to a jaded corporate brand name headwear market.


How did the idea in providing a travel case for the headwear enter the picture?

When I was with Emirates Airline I played in a few Pro Ams around the world and when I travelled with my own hats, or purchased hats, I could never keep their shape. When I traveled back to Dubai I just stuffed them in my suitcase or golf bag.

So I created a unique compact travel case that fits in the side of your golf bag or clips to the side of it which protects it while travelling. It was a personal necessity and now I discovered many people have the same problem.

Roger Duthie Interview
BF Hats on display

Who is your customer and what specific steps are you taking to widen your overall visibility with future customers?

Our customers care about fashion and how they look, care about protecting themselves from the outdoor elements and those who want to be bold and brave. We’ve hired a public relations agency and social media team.

We are also producing a sizzle real to showcase the diversity of the product. I am at the PGA Show this week telling people about the product and hopefully people will like it.


If you could change one thing in golf unilaterally -- what would it be and why?

The handicap system. I think it is unfair. At the moment, the system focuses on one's potential, but you cannot always play to your potential.

I would have a sliding handicap system that takes into consideration things such as travel, whether you got a poor nights sleep or if you are renting clubs while travelling- you may not play well with a rental set. I would ensure everyone had a handicap based on current state of play.


Are professional golfers' endorsements impactful and will you be seeking them out going forward?

It’s always helpful to have a professional golfer endorse your product but I am more concerned about customers having fun while wearing the product. Truthfully, I did not get into this for commercial reasons. I created the product out of my own personal necessity. I love wearing bright colors on the golf course because it’s fun.

While I would love for everyone to be wearing my BF brand, my vision has already been achieved for me and my family. Golf is hard enough so why not have a laugh while wearing some fun-colored hats.

Companies routinely tout the importance of customer service. Define the term and the approach you plan on following.

Customer service means personally dealing with issues. If someone was kind enough to like what I have created and then part with their hard-earned money to purchase my product, then it’s my duty to ensure they are happy with what they purchased.

The large corporate brands -- especially in golf -- live by their names -- not their customer service. I personally have driven around Dubai and knocked on customers doors to change colors and sizes and believe me that’s not easy. However, customers are so elated and surprised when I do this. They understand what I am trying to achieve with the personal touch, and they appreciate it.

My sales teams globally will be doing this in each market! I am going to follow the Maui Jim philosophy that if you are not happy with your product, I will provide a full refund and even buy you a cup of coffee to make it up to you. We are boutique brand as I mentioned, and one to one customer service will make or break any brand. It will not break us.


Biggest challenges facing the company -- short and long term is what?

Our price point. It’s taken about 3 years to develop one hat. I went through 42 suppliers and hundreds of materials and textiles to get the right blend. My attention to detail is second to none and I stand by the quality of our product.

I am not competing with the big brands out there, so we won’t’ be a brand for the masses. We will have select customers who really care about how they look and hopefully my product will help them feel better about themselves whether they are golfing, playing tennis or going to a night club.

The challenge will be to tell my story to the right people who care enough to listen.

How do you expect to remedy those challenges on both fronts?

Marketing and public relations will play a huge role in what we do. I want all of North America and the world to see the product and talk about it.

It won’t be for everyone and that’s okay but for those exclusive few, I will talk to them through our messaging and public relations.


Best advice you ever received -- what was it and who was it from?

Always go for it in two because one day, the choice won’t be yours. We all get older so while you can -- be brave. (Dad)

It’s true for all sports and in life in general.


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About M. James Ward

A GWAA and MGWA member, the 66-year-old from the USA has covered golf in all facets since 1980, notably the major championships and other high level events. He has played over 2,000 courses globally and has competed in USGA Championships.

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