Golf Market: Par for the Promo Course

Par for the Promo Course

Golf events have no shortage of promotional products: gift bags, auction items, contest prizes and more. This introduces hundreds of opportunities for suppliers and distributors to make a lasting impression.
    BY Andraya Vantrease

For decades, golf has been known as America’s favorite pastime; where men, and now many women, go for friendly competition, cold beverages and good old-fashioned fun. According to the National Golf Foundation, golfers played about 490 million rounds on U.S. courses in 2012, a 5.7% increase over 2011 – the first sizeable jump in the number of golf outings since 2000.

If this is any indication that the economy and the sport is on the rise, distributors and suppliers have plenty of opportunities to take advantage of this popular market. Many companies integrate the sport into their extracurricular activities, too, whether it’s charity golf tournaments, team-bonding outings or a few rounds at a prestigious course as an incentive gift.
    Here are great examples of how to land a hole-in-one golf order.

Find Functionality

Nobody understands the importance of a relevant giveaway quite like the recipient. Jim Grainger, a veteran account executive at Activate Promotions + Marketing (asi/141964), has balanced his sales career with a side of golf for over 30 years. Grainger has earned two titles from Carolinas Golf Association, seven club titles at Charlotte Country Club and most recently, a first-place finish at the 53rd Carolinas Senior Amateur Championship in 2014.

Because he has been on the receiving end of countless gift bags, his advice is to steer clear of the basic golf items like polo shirts and golf towels. “Most golf tournaments are local or regional fundraisers, so as a golfer, you find yourself participating in many events with the same people, over and over,” Grainger says. “If sponsors include a towel, golf tees and a shirt every time you participate in an event, you are tossing the items before even leaving the course that day.”

When Grainger’s clients come to him for golf giveaway ideas, he suggests functional products that the golfers will keep long after the event. “We did the Leed’s iFidelity Soundwave bluetooth speaker for The First Tee of Charlotte golf tournament and had a great response that led to other orders down the road,”

he says. “One of the participants in the tournament was running his own event for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and purchased the Groove bluetooth speaker as a giveaway for the participants because she loved the speaker she received at The First Tee.”
    Grainger does believe that there are a few exceptions that can be supplied in every bag. He recommends pushing the practical even further by including staple items like Sharpies and bandages in the giveaway kits. “Playing in cold weather, your cuticles tear and your skin is dry, or if it’s the first round of the season, you’re getting blisters on your fingers and feet,” he says. As a sponsor, you can provide branded bandages or regular bandages with a marketing label. They will get used.
    Another avenue into larger tournaments is providing a higher-end commemorative gift, if the budget allows. One of the most memorable items that Grainger received was a Parker pen, engraved with 1999 USGA Amateur. “I still have that pen, and I’ll never get rid of it because it signifies a special event for me,” he says. “When you play in tournaments like this, they should be giving you keepsake items.”

He also cherishes images of the host course or country club and has a few framed in his office to this day. This idea is one that he has extended to his clients, and has had much success. As a registration gift for one of the U.S. Senior Amateur tournaments, Grainger provided the golfers with a three-image frame of the club, the 11th and the 15th holes from Global Miniatures Ltd. “Each golfer was presented with the gift at sign-in and that’s something a golfer will want to hold on to,” he says.

Title Takeaway: Put yourself in the recipient’s shoes when you are choosing giveaways. Nobody wants to receive the same item every time they participate in a tournament. Provide functional, memorable gifts that will leave the player feeling accomplished and appreciated.

Go Corporate

In the past decade, the promotional industry has watched corporate apparel change from suits and ties to polos and khakis, becoming more and more casual each year. Some offices even allow shorts, especially if there’s an afternoon tee time. This may make your grandfather roll over in his grave, but it’s a new reality, and suppliers have to keep up with trends as they decide on product launches.

Golf apparel has thrived in this new environment, and reps are capitalizing on the opportunity to show golf lines to customers who may not have been interested before. “Our customers are asking us for more comfortable, stylish gear when it comes to golf apparel,” says Rocky Dundas, national sales manager for retail at Trimark Sportswear (asi/92122). “Our styles provide interior performance and exterior trendy looks, which makes it easy to wear them in the office all day then head to the course or to an event afterwards.”

On the course, players are looking for performance features that are going to keep them cool and dry, while allowing them to swing the clubs easily and still look good doing it. Is that too much to ask? Not if you’re asking the right person. “Key features of the polos and outerwear now include UV protection for long days on the links; EZ Care properties like durability and wrinkle resistance; breathability and moisture management; and snag resistance,” says Dundas. “All of this on top of a versatile color palette and accent details such as contrast stitching, colorblocking and other sporty trims.”

APG/Golf Town Corporate Services, a long-time customer of Trimark Sportswear, needed an outerwear piece that would promote an in-store display setup for Golf Town Corporate Services. “We chose the Kaputar Softshell, a great representation of Trimark’s innovative design and decoration”, says Nadia Vetere, digital marketing coordinator at Trimark. “The jacket was designed with a heat transfer of the Golf Town Corporate Services logo on the left chest, a golf ball lasered on the left hip and a stunning full back deboss argyle pattern. ”The branded jacket was an amazing corporate golf jacket – a jacket that truly evoked pride for golf.“ The Kaputar was designed with a retail flare and was used as a self-promotion piece in 56 Golf Town Canada stores.

Title Takeaway: Whether you are outfitting customers specifically for the links or not, golf apparel can fit a variety of landscapes. Pitch golf wear to your corporate clients as well as those who need it for actual play – with so much to choose from these days, it’s hard to go wrong with golf-inspired styles.

Don’t Forget the Ladies

Robin Richter is a former golf professional who turned to the promotional industry after two years on the tour and 10 years as an account executive with Lancome. She loved building relationships and helping people find the perfect product, so when she was approached at the driving range by the owner of a golf merchandise company, she gladly accepted his offer to make her the next director of sales and marketing. Fast forward 22 years, and Richter is the owner of Foothills, CA-based Wearable Imaging (asi/356030), a distributorship that specializes in golf tournament tee prizes, trade show giveaways, corporate gifts and employee incentives.

Richter uses her golf experience as a way to generate customers for Wearables Imaging. “Here in California, the golf market is thriving, and I play in a lot of tournaments, first because I enjoy it, and second, as a way to advertise the company and meet prospects,” she says. “At every event, I’ll sponsor a hole and put up a branded booth and tent on the course. We get one-on-one time with over 144 players that have to come by us, and we’ll give away something unique and get their cards. We get a lot of business this way.”

Richter also uses her golf skills to gain exposure for the company and is sure to mention Wearable Imaging when she is recognized for her performance in certain tournaments. “If I win a longest drive or I place in the tournament, I am able to introduce what I do and many people approach me afterwards with opportunities for upcoming events,” Richter says.
    When advising her clients on golf tournament giveaways, she puts herself back in the player’s shoes. “We don’t need more golf accessories, and we certainly won’t keep men’s or unisex apparel,” she says. “Add items geared toward women to cater to women players, or make the man the hero when he brings his wife a gift after being gone all day on the course. Anything to be different.”

Richter has sold items such as George Foreman grills, picnic tables, folding chairs, poker sets, wine sets, and other household items that have all been a big hit. “Crown Products (asi/47700) carries a cooler that fits perfectly in the back of the golf cart and has two pockets for makeup, phone, keys, whatever loose items you’re bringing,” she says. “We did this for the Goodwill Invitational and it was hugely popular. The goal is to have people saying, ’Where did you get that? I want one.’”

Title Takeaway: Don’t rule out women when creating giveaway ideas, especially since golf is teaming with female players these days. If you enjoy the game yourself, participate as a way to network and make your company known to prospects.

Market Your Golf Gear

Each spring, the promotional industry is inundated with orders for golf-related products and apparel for tournaments, charity events and corporate outings. Like many other categories, golf items are carried by almost every distributor, even if it’s not their specialty. It’s also a category that can be somewhat overwhelming when you start looking at polos of all colors, materials and styles.

Canadian distributorship Brand-Alliance (asi/145177) creates a 36-page golf catalog that combines classic must-have pieces with the year’s latest and greatest golf items as a push to get clients thinking about upcoming events. Lanna Thompson, marketing manager for BrandAlliance, says the catalog has several purposes: to support their preferred vendors, to generate conversation between reps and their customers, and to share ideas. “We get advanced access to spring products from some of our vendors, so they send us their new items and we can add them to the catalog if they fit,” she says. “Once we choose the items, we write copy and bring the graphic artists in for the design, translate a French version, then it’s hosted on Issuu for easy navigation.”

BrandAlliance pushes the catalog on several channels to leverage the interaction. The website displays a banner with a link, the Facebook page displays posts with a link, email signatures contain a banner and a link, and they are now using Constant Contact to execute email blasts to BrandAlliance’s database of 15,000 customers. “We are able to track how many people visit the page – approximately 1,500 in English and 300 in French the first year then it doubled for 2014 – and use that data to measure the ease of use, product selection and overall success of the catalog,” says Thompson.

“The average user visited the page for over four minutes, which means they’re really looking through it. Our goal is to generate conversations between the reps and their customers, so even if people aren’t ordering exact items from the catalog, they are at least contacting their rep when the email reminded them of an upcoming event.”

Each year, the marketing team surveys the sales reps across the country for feedback on the marketing materials it creates, always finding ways to improve from the previous year. ”

Ultimately, these materials are for the reps, so we want to know how they used them, what worked and what didn’t work for them so we can strive to make things that they and their customers will appreciate,” she says. ”With the onset of our new software system in 2015, we will be able to see which orders came from the catalog and from which channel the customer viewed the material. This will be very helpful to our sales and marketing team.”

Title Takeaway: Be proactive when it comes to marketing your products. Creating marketing materials and advertising on social media channels and websites allows customers to come across the information before they even know they should be looking.

Andraya Vantrease is a contributing writer for Advantages.