Golf is more than just a sport. It’s an opportunity to spend a few hours in the sunshine in what’s basically a park. It’s a great time to create a bit of friendly competition amongst friends without having to expend too much energy. And, most importantly for businesspeople, it’s a killer networking opportunity. The fact that golf is so many things for so many people (including a job for some) means golf tournaments, courses and events are abundant. Nonprofits hold fundraisers at golf courses, companies have group outings and the professionals obviously have tournaments to play in. That means that courses, companies and events are looking for golf promotional products. And that’s where you come in.
The golf products category allows distributors to be more creative than usual, really. Your client base is enormous, the available product selection is wider than a tricky sand trap, and (in some parts of the country) golf can be a year-round thing.
So, let’s focus on creativity first. Obviously, the items you’d think of first are golf balls, hats, shirts and tees, and those are vital to the game. But you shouldn’t limit yourself to things you’d find in your golf bag.
Todd Blackmar, owner and president of Haas-Jordan by Wescott, Maumee, Ohio, said that there are lots of products that golfers appreciate but aren’t necessarily golf-specific.
“One thing we have are these cutting boards, believe it or not, that are used as a golf tournament gift,” he said. “They are full-color, sublimated items that can be custom made with different images and collages of images. Those have been very popular with golf tournaments.”
He also mentioned that coasters, especially those where you can place an image, have been popular with golf events.
Think about what else you do on a golf course other than just play. Usually, golf courses have workers who come out to sell drinks like beer and soda, and typically golfers grab a few drinks at the turn.
Tom Farrell, marketing manager for EMT, Indianapolis, said that he’s seen many a golfer appreciate something beverage-related.
“We’ve had a lot of success with multi-tool products, like our Golf N’ Brew, hat clip bottle openers and the Pitchfix divot tool,” he said. “Everyone is looking for a new, cool gadget, and golfers are no exception. So any time you can offer improved functionality or create a value added kit, you add a little swagger to your swag.”
When do you start?
Like we said, golf season is pretty much year-round for those lucky enough to live in warm climates, but that isn’t the case for most people. That means you have to tailor make (golf joke) your sales strategy to fit in with the right period of time.
“We like to say there are two seasons: golf season and almost golf season,” Farrell said. “The difference is really geographical. For warmer parts of the country, golf is a year-round sport. For areas that go through the freeze-thaw cycle, we usually start seeing an uptick in golf item sales starting around March and running through the fall, as companies plan their spring and summer golf events. But our distributors tell us that they’ll often start pitching golf products while there is still snow on the ground.”
While it’s always best to plan ahead as much as possible, if you start looking into golf products now, you might be able to catch some customers scrambling for last-minute solutions, too.
“I think March to June is really kind of the key time to do it,” Blackmar said. “We’re especially good at last-minute things, where maybe an event pops up, there wasn’t a lot of planning and there wasn’t a lot of time to plan, and we ship quickly. That’s a very good thing for us. We can react quickly. During March to June is when most of your tournaments around the country are going to be.”
It’s OK to get off course (despite this article's title)
While it’s probably smart to focus your attention on events that actually take place on golf courses, you’re not limited to the links. Blackmar said there are plenty of places where golfers are looking for promotional products to help their games.
“Away from the course, I think corporate retreats and cruise lines are big consumers of stuff like that, because I think most of the people who go on them are businesspeople, and golf is kind of the game of business,” Blackmar said. “Even though it may not be for a tournament, a lot of the same sort of demographics that would go on a cruise would also go to a course, or at least play golf on the weekends or that sort of thing for business. We see a lot of golf items given away from the course for cruises and stuff like that.”
Farrell agreed with the notion of golf being a business-focused game.
“Golf is one of those categories that is nearly universal,” he said. ”We see a lot of corporate sponsorships for golf-related events and fundraisers. Financial firms, insurance companies and health care clients in particular often use golf events for their outreach.”
So, if you’re not already doing business on the course (whether that means playing it yourself or selling to those who do), now is the perfect time to start.
“Those old adages about business being done on the golf course are still true,” Farrell said. “Even if you’re not doing so yourself, chances are some of your clients are, so it’s smart to be prepared with some great product suggestions in your arsenal.”