When we’re trying to impress someone in conversation, we often list “The Legend of Bagger Vance” as our favorite film of all time. But, candidly, we’d have to give that accolade to “Happy Gilmore.” The point is that either way, golf’s influence over our lives cannot be denied, and we can see why. It’s a game of great skill, synonymous with good weather and the birthplace of the Arnold Palmer.
Golf is also a vehicle for endless business opportunities and networking events. According to We Are Golf’s annual report, in 2016, golf tournaments and other events raised $3.94 billion for charity. In addition, the National Golf Federation’s Golf Industry Report found that in 2017, the number of people who played on a golf course for the first time increased for the fourth straight year, meaning there is no shortage of prospective clients and event attendees.
Golf’s continued success is great news for promotional distributors because, as we know, the sport requires countless promotional products. From towels to golf balls, the branding potential is endless. To help navigate your journey to the green, we spoke to Meredith O’Brien, vice president of sales and director of custom imports for the promotional products division at Storm Duds Raingear, Attleboro, Mass.; Tom Farrell, marketing manager for EMT, Indianapolis; and Keith Lofton, vice president of sales for Pro Towels, Pittsburgh.
Why They Work
Aside from golf’s growing player totals, there are several other reasons golf promotions are a no-brainer.
“The adage about business being done on the golf course is still true,” said Farrell. “And if you’re able to tie your brand message to a pastime people love, it makes selling a lot easier. We want to do business with people we like, and if you’re out enjoying a nice day, a few drinks and a game together, it’s easier to build that relationship and the partnership that comes with it. Even if you play poorly, a bad day on the course is a pretty good day.”
Golf promotional products are also ideal for increased brand awareness because end-users tend to use them even after they’ve left the tee, said O’Brien.
“Golf umbrellas can be used in any market,” she explained. “Umbrellas are a product that everyone needs, rarely buys for themselves, and will use if available
no matter what logo is on it, so [the logo] might as well be [your client’s].”
Lofton agreed that he’s seen success pitching products that can be used on and off the course.
“We have also sold a lot of ‘fitness towels’ without the classic hook and grommet, because then it makes the item versatile and allows for folks who might not play golf too often to use it elsewhere, off the course and in their daily lives,” he said.
Along with fitness towels, our supplier respondents spotlighted some other golf promotional products that are sure bets on the green.
“Golf divot tools are always a great giveaway,” said Farrell. “They’re useful tools that every golfer needs and uses. And unlike tees or golf balls, they’re an item that won’t get lost or thrown away. Many golfers keep multiple divot tools as part of their collection.”
Farrell also mentioned that multifunctional promos, like EMT’s PVC Putt Target, which is a three-in-one bag tag, putting target and beverage coaster, are another trending option gaining traction. Aside from those, he pointed out that lapel pins are an under-the-radar item that distributors often don’t think of. The commemorative event pins and donor appreciation pins are a low-cost promotional option that amplifies any event.
Lofton, on the other hand, had a surprising suggestion.
“Flip Flops, believe it or not, [are a recent product we’ve had success with],” he said. “The first thing most people do when they get done playing a round of golf is slip off their golf cleats, so a set of flip flops give attendees a nice comfortable change of shoes for after the event to dress down in and head to the 19th hole.”
For Pro Towels, there have been some shifts in the golf towel space that are worth sharing. These days, clients are looking for ways to personalize their promotional products to take their branding to the next level.
“Our Pro Vision full-color sublimation allows for customers to put pictures from the course onto their towel [to] show off the feature hole on the course or an image of the club house,” Lofton said. “Also, with our one-piece minimum, customers can add a person’s name to the corner of the towel, and personalize it for each player attending the tournament.”
Like any other vertical or product category, there are tried-and-true approaches to make the most out of the selling process. For O’Brien, it’s important to emphasize quality over the lowest price.
“Not all golf umbrellas are equal,” she advised. “A true quality golf umbrella should never have a steel shaft, for example. If the price seems low and too good to be true, it is. Go with quality and reputation, not a deal.”
Lofton pointed out that there are many selling opportunities that distributors often do not take advantage of. “Always offer the premiums outside of the usual suspects in the golf world,” he suggested. “There are raffles, closest-to-the-pin prizes and premium gifts being distributed at tournaments, and I think oftentimes, we get to thinking balls, tees, towels and divot towels. Find the additional value items that are going to make people’s heads turn.”
As for markets worth pursuing for golf products sales, Farrell had some suggestions.
“We see a lot of corporate sponsorships for golf-related events and fundraisers,” he said. “Financial firms, insurance companies and health care clients often use golf events for their outreach.”
O’Brien, meanwhile, mentioned real estate agents, executive gifts, car dealerships, admission offices at colleges, hotels and inns, restaurants, new employee recruiting programs, incentive programs and casino prizes as possible clients.
And, of course, the heavy-hitters:
“Sponsored golf tournaments, youth sport organizations and schools seem to be the most successful promotions for distributors with golf umbrellas,” she said.
As Farrell pointed out, golf promotions don’t have to be complicated.
“Because golf is a nearly universal pastime, it’s easy to incorporate golf-themed promotional products into promotions that aren’t necessarily tied to a golf event,” he said. “It’s messaging that everyone understands, even non-golfers.”