A Good, Long Drive
GOLF IS A game of increments and minutiae. Misjudge a stroke by one millimeter, and a killer drive ends up being a killer search through the woods. Appropriately, golf promotions require the same kind of precision. A campaign that is even slightly off can land product meant for a promotional hole in one right into a sand trap.
There’s no reason, however, that selling golf promotions has to be as nerve-wracking as the last putt of the U.S. Open. With proper insight into several facets of the golf world, from balls to gear to tournaments, distributors can sell with the same Zen calm that allows players to dominate on the green.
Start with the Basics
A central, and perhaps the most simple, component of both golf and golf promotions is the ball. However, as both Josh Hayes, business development manager at Ball Pro/Golf Plus, Eden Prairie, Minn., and Chip Wiegand, merchandiser for the Golf, Sports & Fun category at Norwood Promotional Products, Indianapolis, suggested, underestimating the complexity of using golf ball promotions may be a mistake.
Because they are so key to the game, and can be produced so cheaply, Hayes named golf balls as commodity items, meaning it can be very difficult to make a profit with them without creative planning.
Offering a solution, Wiegand recommended first considering the ball’s end-user and matching the price point to the company’s needs. “If you’re giving them out as gifts with the company logo on it, you’re going to use a higher-end golf ball,” he said. “If it’s for an event, and you’re trying to get the most bang for your buck, you’re going to go with the Wilson Ultra or the Top Flight XL,” two balls Wiegand had pointed out as being high-value and high-quality.
Kellie Costa, custom marketing manager for Acushnet Company, parent company of the Titleist, FootJoy, Cobra and Pinnacle brands and based out of Fairhaven, Mass., emphasized the importance of brand names even for golf balls. “Being able to offer a customer a product that adds to the branding value of their own company is extremely important and should not be overlooked,” she explained. “A distributor should offer their customers the best golf balls and not just the golf balls they make the most margin on,” said Costa, adding companies typicially prefer to co-brand with product lines that have popular name recognition.
Bells and Whistles
Besides balls, there are dozens of ancillary items also used in golf, just as imprintable as their tiny, dimpled counterparts. Bags, ball markers, sunblock, towels, divot tools and umbrellas are a few areas where distributors can add products to round out a promotion.
“I think that golf towels, golf umbrellas [and] things of that nature are very good, very effective at getting your message across because they don’t get lost,” Wiegand said. “A golf towel is going to hang on the side of the bag forever, and a golf umbrella, [as] soon as you open it up, boom, there’s the message, there’s the logo.”
Accessories also provide flexibility for distributors. Hayes pointed out that more end-buyers are utilizing higher price-point items like clubs and jackets as promotions outside of tournaments. “Besides typical tee prizes, they’ll use them as an end-of-the-year sales awards [or] holiday gifts, more of a premium item,” e explained.
However, for those who want to offer gifts and prizes for tournament use, Hayes described an interesting way to provide such items. Using the example of golf shoes, he said, “Shoe fittings are being offered now at the golf tournaments, so if you want Nike or TaylorMade or FootJoy shoes, a rep can be sent out there from one of those companies, if it’s a large enough tournament. When participants in the tournament show up, they get a free pair of shoes.” He mentioned fittings are also offered for other high price-point items, like putters and sunglasses.
Moving away from more expensive premiums like shoes, golf kits are cost-effective products which keep the permanence and gameplay relevance of a more expensive giveaway. Kits vary in composition, containing products like tees, ball markers and towels, along with the required golf ball or two, often contained inside a water bottle. Hayes explained the reasoning behind packing the items together. “It allows you to put your logo on more than one area, so it’s really strong branding in that sense,” he said, and added that while golf balls are great promotions, pairing them with other, more elaborate take-home items helps the brand survive after the tournament. “It’s a complete package that they can use during the tournament and afterward,” he stated.
Putting it all Together
Unlike other promotional categories, golf items are not self-contained in their purpose. “Golf products are usually associated with an event of some kind, and so just by its nature, it’s more leisure-based,” explained Wiegand. “People enjoy receiving golf products, especially branded products, I think more so than a pen or a key chain.”
Though it may seem obvious, Hayes said golf products’ connection to leisure and play is something distributors often overlook. “That’s what it’s really about, creating this experience for them,” Hayes stressed. “They enjoy the event—it’s not just another golf tournament, it’s a complete event where they can maybe get some business done, meet some new people, enjoy the game of golf and walk away with some great promotional products.”