PGA's Marketing Problem: Four Solutions

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The ratings are in: the 2014 Masters had the lowest rating since 1993. Although the tournament, the most prestigious in golf, didn’t come down to the final holes, it was still a shame for two reasons. First, Bubba Watson added to his folk story. And second, it was the coming out party for 20 year old Jordan Spieth.

That’s what ratings you get when there’s a tournament with no Tiger Woods, and no Phil Mickelson. The apathy doesn’t extend to only television audiences – ticket prices were down 22% at after Tiger’s withdrawal. And with recent nagging injuries to PGA’s two foremost stars, this may be a reality that the sport has to live with and reconsider. This begs the bigger question: how can the PGA Tour do a better job of marketing their non-Tiger, non-Phil stars? We present three solutions:

1. Do Like Bubba – marketing, and consumer engagement, in 2014 begins with one word: social media. In light of the era of selfies, Bubba Watson’s selfie at Waffle House, taken after his Sunday win, was perfect. It showed his personality and his relatability. Watson has done the most outside of Tiger and Phil at building his own story – from his humble origins to his self taught swing, he is a folk version of the sport. Watson is unique and memorable – his story resonates.

The PGA must find more stories like Watson. As we’ll get to in the fourth point, there’s a barrier to entry they must cross to fully to accessible to gain a larger audience.

2. Increase Online Presence – The PGA Tour Twitter account has 583,000 followers. Compare this to NFL’s twitter account (6.28 million) and NBA’s Twitter account (9.83 million) and you can see the wide gulf.

3. Build An Event – As we discussed last week, turning games into events creates online momentum. The Masters does a fantastic job of building up to the event, with stories of history and past winners. And while smaller events may not have the backstory, they can each create their own stories, and introduce their own unique angle on their tournament. Take a look at this top 10 list of golf courses with the best social media presence. They each interact with their own audience, while showing what makes their course great at the same time.

4. Be More Accessible – The biggest challenge the PGA must address is how the larger public views golf. It’s either a leisure sport, or a sport played behind exclusive country clubs. Their athletes must be more accessible to the average television watching consumer, and can be done by doing a better job of telling their stories. Take this example of the Golf Boys video for “Oh Oh Oh” with has over 7 million views. It’s quirky, it’s unexpected – and it features Watson, Rickie Fowler, Ben Crane, and Hunter Mahan.

Social media is the first stop for fans to have a connection with their favorite athletes. At that point, we stop rooting for the sport and we begin rooting for people. That’s where true engagement begins.