[Find this post on Linkedin - March 27, 2022]
This week I’m eagerly anticipating The Masters and thinking about how far the golf industry has come. Golf marketers deserve a ton of credit for the turnaround.
It was only 5 or 6 years ago when things looked bleak. The number of young people playing was down by a third. Nike quit making clubs. Adidas sold Taylormade. Retailer Golfsmith went bankrupt.
The media predicted doom: Business Insider: "Adidas and Nike are signaling the death of the golf as we know it" Bloomberg: "Golf in the Rough" Men's Journal: "The Death of Golf" Etc.
But by 2018, declining participation started to reverse. Smart industry efforts were working:
The First Tee nonprofit program, which instills inner strength and makes golf affordable for kids, was reaching well over 3 Million participants annually.
Drive, Chip and Putt, an initiative founded in 2013 by industry leaders, was hosting hundreds of qualifying events for their free nationwide junior golf competition.
But perhaps most important of all, golf marketers started telling a different story about the game.
Instead of telling us that we should look and play like the pros, they started inviting golfers to spend time with friends and just be themselves. For example:
Callaway Golf invested in heavily in TopGolf (before buying it in 2020 for $2 Billion) and helped promote it as an easy, highly social way to enjoy the game. (It’s booming.)
Dick’s Sporting Goods ran humorous ads starring Charles Barkley, showing how horribly-unskilled golfers like him could be treated like pros at the retailer.
TaylorMade started producing ads and YouTube videos featuring their top-ranked, PGA ambassadors practicing and joking with each other. In one standout TV spot, the super stars of the game ask amateurs, “Hey, want to come join us?”
These are among the many smart marketing efforts that made golf such an easy choice during, and after the pandemic shutdowns.
So if you haven't played in a while, better plan ahead for a tee time.