Golf: A Social Game

There’s no doubt that golf is a traditional game, but now more than ever its consumers are becoming far from traditional. The biggest brands in the game are starting to realize this, and it’s resulted in some new, creative ways of selling products to the masses.

Over the past month, golf equipment enthusiasts have been abuzz with debate, predictions, and reactions as three of those brands all took to social media to help launch products from their 2013 line-ups.

The brands in question – TaylorMade, Callaway, and Nike – all took interesting approaches to their products’ unveiling that were reflective of what their brands stand for.

Interesting too, that the only brand missing from this triumvirate, Titleist, released its newest club-offering (the 913 drivers) a few months back with little to no social commentary.

But, as I wrote here, Titliest doesn’t need a huge marketing event to boost conversations. Its positioning is such that it lets its product speak for itself.

TaylorMade on the other hand, is best-in-class in the world of golf with respect to marketing. Known for extravagant campaigns which feature highly-involved athletes, and media relations initiatives that are unsurpassed, the launch of the RocketBladez irons in late-October reflected all that TaylorMade does to market its products, and more.

The launch of the RocketBladez Irons and ‘This Little Thing’ (Courtesy: TaylorMade)

Having used hashtags – a method of keeping track of a discussion on social media websites like Twitter – before to help launch the new R11s driver earlier in 2012, along with the new RocketBallz driver (#driverlove) it was not surprising to see TaylorMade take to Twitter once again; this time using the hashtag #thislittlething to help track conversations.

TaylorMade got most of it’s Tour staff to tweet using that hashtag, along with many in the golf world who were all talking about the new iron release. The ‘little thing’ the hashtag was referring to is a 2mm ‘Speed Pocket’ that is incorporated into the 3- through 7-irons in the sole of the iron, that flexes and rebounds at impact – which helps promote faster ball speed.

From a ‘buzz’ perspective, it seems to be working. The RocketBladez are the most talked about iron heading into the holiday season.

While most thought that TaylorMade would be releasing a new driver – they are “the number one driver in golf” – it was actually Nike and Callaway that went that route.

Nike brought the golf world with it to an innovation summit in Florida, where it took the cover off the VR_S Covert driver.

The Nike VR_ S Covert Driver (Courtesy: Nike Golf, Flagstick)

Nike is known firstly as a company for superior athletes – hence its interest in one Rory McIlroy – it’s always going after the best in any sport and try to outfit him or her head-to-toe in the swoosh. That said, the perception has been that the R&D for it’s golf department has been slipping the past few years.

But, Nike will be back in a big way for 2013 with the VR_S Covert.

The innovation summit was quite the first step in the unveiling of Nike’s newest, and arguably most buzzed-about golf product in some time.

Whereas TaylorMade went traditional – at least for them – with a big campaign, Nike focused its promotions, both social and otherwise, into this one grandiose event that of course had it’s own hashtag too, #believeit.

Nike continues to have the strongest brand identity in all of sports, not just golf, a contrast to Callaway, which has been struggling to find itself of late. But, Callaway was able to successfully release a new driver – the Razr Fit Extreme – with much social fanfare.

Callaway reached out to a digital agency, Mass Relevance, to help them to produce the social strategy, where the brand used real-time social content to help launch the product.

The more tweets that were sent out using the hashtag, #LongestDriverinGolf, the closer Callaway got to fully unveiling the Razr Fit Extreme. Along the way, Callaway was also giving away the driver to random followers who used the aforementioned hashtag.

The landing page for the Razr Fit Extreme “Tweet To Unleash” campaign (Courtesy: Callawaygolf.com)

Sam Decker, the CEO of Mass Relevance said that they were inspired to build an owned media experience that was “a first for golf – and one of the firsts for any product launch.” It was a purely user-generated media experience to literally pull the cover off the new driver, and resulted in Callaway’s most-talked about product in some time.

It’s too early to tell if any of these campaigns could be directly correlated to sales.

But that’s not the point.

A good social campaign should help a brand bring awareness to its product or service. It’s tough to argue that the three of these campaigns don’t do just that.

Now more than ever, brands are trying new ways to connect consumers with their products, and it’s good to see that golf brands are jumping into that space as well.

With plenty more product releases to come for 2012 and early 2013, who knows may come next.  But, we do know that golf brands are just scratching the surface with respect to social engagement.

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