For all the buzz generated by the recent Masters -- Phil Mickelson's amazing win, Tiger Woods' impressive comeback, and a big jump in TV ratings -- golf still has a bit of a problem. While a healthy 25.6 million people swung a club back in 2008, there was a sharp falloff last year, as people worked more, played less, and cut back on discretionary and luxury spending. In 2009, participation fell to 22.2 million, reports the National Sporting Goods Association.
Specialty retailer Golfsmith, based in Austin, Tex., is looking to lure more golfers back to the greens with a first-ever money-back offer, introducing it with a new TV and radio campaign from GSDM Idea City: If the clubs you buy don't improve your game within 90 days, you get full in-store credit toward another set.
Matt Corey, SVP/ marketing and business development, tells Marketing Daily about how the new campaign evolved.
Q: "We promise these clubs will improve your game" is a pretty bold promise, considering how inconsistent so many golfers are. What inspired you?
A: Any good retailer is hoping to beat prior-year numbers, and because we had some innovative promotions last year, we wanted to step out and do something really new, really different. So we kept saying, 'What's the benefit of buying new clubs?' Everyone wants to have fun and enjoy the game. But at the end of the day, they want to get better. So we decided to put together a guarantee that will inspire golfers. First, they get custom-fit for their clubs, which is cool. Second, they can relax, because they know that if they don't play better, the clubs are returnable. There isn't anyone making that promise on a national level.
Q: And you think you can win back some of this discretionary spending?
A: Yes. This offer is a way to get attention and add value without discounting, per se. Last year, we were working with the same idea, and gave away 45,000 free rounds of golf with purchase. That is not discounting -- it's giving away something golfers want anyway. So there is a great perceived value. And we partnered with local courses, so they got exposure, and it was a good benefit for them too.
Q: How will this coax golfers into spending more?
A: Because this season's kick-off custom-fitting event focuses on a driver or a set of irons, and those are much higher-ticket items than our average ring. So this incents customers toward a bigger, more considered purchase.
Q: Will it be enough to bring back all the golfers?
A: No. To be frank, we believe 2010 is going be a lot like 2009, and there is going to be continued consolidation. In the golf retail space, five years ago, there were 1,800 stores; now there are 1,250. The number of stores is shrinking. We grew our doors and market share in that period, but we're still very cautiously optimistic, and believe golf will grow a tiny bit this year. It's going to take time to get back to the 2007/2008 levels.
Q: The golfers in these spots are young, and there's even a woman. What demos are you aiming for?
A: The avid core golfer, generally, is still a male, between 40 and 60. But we absolutely want to attract more women and juniors, even though they are smaller audiences, and we'll do things around Father's Day to promote that. Also, we all know she influences him. I come from the Home Depot, and there are similarities. When you come in and build a birdhouse with mom and dad, it's not about the birdhouse.
Q: What will help golf get through this bumpy patch?
A: Golf has actually never been more affordable than it is right now. Prices have come down so much -- a driver that used to cost $600 is now $249, and it's the best technology that has ever been out. So golf has gotten less expensive.
Q: Tiger Woods has generated so much publicity -- good and bad. Is that good for Golfsmith?
A: Yes. Every time he plays, viewership on TV doubles. That's why the tour wants him back, and the players want him back. He's good for the game, despite his off-course issues. And avid golfers just love to watch him play -- he's an incredible athlete and does things other athletes just can't do. When golf is on TV, and when it's exciting, like it was [during the Masters], our stores are full of people."