Innovative program underway in bringing new golfers forward
by Matt Ward
What was the genesis for the initiative — “Make Golf Your Thing?”
“Make Golf Your Thing” is a marketing movement (campaign) aimed at inspiring and inviting diverse audiences to consider trying golf in any way that they want to, specifically focusing on non-traditional ways that people can play golf.
This multi-year movement, which kicked off in May, is part of an industry-wide initiative to grow and diversify golf led by The PGA TOUR, PGA of America, LPGA and USGA. There are other key parts of this industry initiative that are focused on attacking the culture at the golf course level, talent acquisition, grassroots program support and much more.
How does this effort go beyond what has been done by others?
“Make Golf Your Thing” allows golf course owners and operators to create their own invitation for folks that want to come out and try golf.
The “Make Golf Your Thing” campaign is focused on bringing key golf industry leaders together to affect change on the growing golf community. We are experiencing a demand for golf that puts us, our clients and our properties in the spotlight and we need to capitalize on that momentum now, so that we don’t lose it. We all have the same goal, and we know we are stronger together.
Why have past efforts in branching out in securing a broader range of new people into golf has not achieved lasting success?
Some programs have seen success, especially youth programs like First Tee, PGA Junior League and Girls Golf, to name a few. Other programs that haven’t had a lot of success suggested a one-size-fits-all solution for golf course owners. Make Golf Your Thing is completely customizable for any golf course.
We have certainly seen efforts that have worked better than others, but we’ve continued to learn and evolve as we aim to understand what resonates most with our players, especially during this pandemic. We believe that right now golf has momentum and demand, plus research and insights on what different types of golfers want, and an industry ready to build a foundation for future growth, all coming together at the same time and ready to make an impact.
What kind of specific resources from both your organizations will be engaged to help make this effort a meaningful success?
This year, KemperSports launched its new All Welcome program, a year-round integrated and inclusive program to support player development. We will continue gathering insights on players needs through The KemperSports Golfer Insights Survey. Our properties will continue assessing and innovating new experiences and instructional events that create a welcoming atmosphere, including the supporting marketing campaigns that attract new and diverse audiences to the game.
For example, the Social 6 series at Chambers Bay in University Place, Washington, host of the 2015 U.S. Open, gives players the chance to play casual, 6-hole rounds of golf that end in a social cocktail hour, while the popular Jack and Jill couples league at Sand Creek Station in Newton, Kansas provides a less intimidating approach to league play.
Outside of on-course play, properties are also shifting their physical spaces to accommodate socialization and gatherings. Timberlinks in Denton, Texas is creating a fun patio space for people to gather after their rounds. KemperSports also promotes relationships with innovative partners in the game across its portfolio, such as DiscoverGolf and Spark Golf League to better serve the Gen Z and millennial audience. DiscoverGolf helps junior golfers learn golf fundamentals through exploration and entertaining unique games .
Are any key professional golfers — male and/or female — being sought to assist via their involvement through the different equipment companies that are involved now?
As we launch this movement (campaign) this year, we are purposely NOT including professional golfers, because we want people to be able to see themselves in the campaign. In other words, we’re using real social content from real non-professional people enjoying golf.
As we move forward into 2022, we’ll work with PGA TOUR and LPGA Tour professionals with the key of showing them in fun social moments with friends. The point is that golf can be enjoyed by all as an activity, versus focusing our messaging on competing.
During telecasts of PGA Tour events — will there be announcements of what is happening and how people / organizations can get involved?
Yes. We are using the marketing assets across the golf industry to encourage golfers to “invite a friend” and direct them to makegolfyourthing.org. We are also targeting diverse audiences through digital, social and TV channels with separate media budgets.
What specific efforts will be implemented to solicit support from those organizations / non-profit groups, schools, already actively engaging with minority youth in key major metro areas?
Throughout KemperSports 40-year history we, and our clients and properties, have been committed to supporting organizations that introduce the game to minority communities. We recently made the largest single contribution in our company’s history, and a long-term commitment, to the First Tee – Greater Chicago, which is committed to teaching valuable life skills through the game of golf to disadvantaged and underserved youth throughout the Chicagoland area and nationwide.
From the standpoint of measuring success in the effort — what specific benchmarks will be studied and will an independent outside group be brought on board to do that overview?
This is a multi-year movement. We’ll measure success by how many new people try golf, especially those from traditionally under-represented groups. We are also measuring the impact of the creative itself and whether or not it is inspiring people to consider golf (pre/post brand studies).
We will be monitoring a variety of KPI’s to determine success, including engagement in new on-property programming, our Net Promoter Scores from our TrueReview post-play surveys, and the conversations on our social channels. Our Golfer Insights Survey and property tee-sheets provide us baseline data to monitor growth, including trends in rounds played.
Additionally, we are also continuing to support our long-standing commitment to equality within our staff and the vendor partners we do business with, as the Make Golf Your Thing movement is not just about players, it is also about creating a more inclusive and welcoming environment for everyone that supports our industry.
Chief Marketing Officer
Is the Chief Marketing Officer for The PGA TOUR joining the organization in 2019. In this capacity he leverages his passion for sports, marketing, digital and fan experience as he leads global marketing for the TOUR. Corey brings 15 years of golf industry experience to The PGA TOUR, having spent time with two omni-channel golf retail organizations in the United States.
He also brings a deep understanding of the golf media landscape and the manufacturing side of the industry, along with experience working hand in hand with PGA TOUR athletes and their agents on multiple national campaigns.
Senior Vice President of Marketing
Joined KemperSports in 2021. In her role as Senior Vice President of Marketing, Kristine leads KemperSports’ marketing strategy in support of the company’s more than 130 properties as well as its corporate marketing, branding and loyalty initiatives.
Rose has more than 20 years of marketing experience in the hospitality, restaurant and retail industries, most recently serving as the global head of hotel marketing and brand strategy for Hard Rock International, a global lifestyle, hotel and entertainment brand. She has also held leadership roles with Hyatt Hotels Corporation.
THE COREY STORY
It’s not often that we are able to participate in something that is bigger than our own company or our own brand. But today the golf industry has that opportunity — the chance to open our arms to everyone and invite people in, especially more diverse and underrepresented audiences. We are banding together to drive that change.
While true change takes time, we know that we’re all in this together. We need organizations like Kemper Sports to help lead the way towards driving an inclusive culture at every club. We need golf course owners and operators to think outside the box and create experiences that will inspire more people to experience golf as a fun and cool activity (not just a sport). And we need everyone collaborating and showing that golf (in any form) can be a lot of fun for everyone. “Make Golf Your Thing” is a movement aimed at doing just that.
THE ROSE STORY
Starting with the first impression, creating a welcoming environment should be laced into everything we do, from our marketing and communications to our physical environment and our policies and procedures. This spring KemperSports launched our All Welcome initiative designed to attract, welcome and retain new and diverse golfers at our properties. The playbook provides our clients and locations with research insights, assessments, communication toolkits and event programming that invites new players to enjoy the game their way and helps them feel more welcome once they arrive.
In April we conducted the KemperSports Golfer Insights Survey among 24K golfers which supports the theory that the new golfer is a more social golfer, younger and female; starting to close the gap on current industry averages. In addition, more than 40% of new golfers stated fun events and activities combined with golf would motivate them to play more rounds in 2021.
Supporting these insights, the Make Golf Your Thing movement gave us a jump-start by providing the industry, and our properties, with customizable communications toolkits (and other initiatives) that take a modern, inclusive and more social approach to attracting new players. We are excited to be a founding partner in this movement that supports KemperSports growth strategy through industry collaboration.