Commentary

Callaway Live Is Ambitious Piece Of Content

I lack the chromatic diversity of pantwear to be a true golfer. As much as I enjoy leisurely allergic strolls in marsh-grade humidity, I can’t bring myself to self-attire in a way that’d make me a hot ticket at the Bingo parlor. Also, from a hoping-to-remain-married perspective, the temporal demands of a job and kids render unwise the commitment of several hours per week to ball-striking. Mostly it’s the pants, though. I like jeans. You can’t golf in jeans. Golfing in jeans is like power-sanding in a frock.

Alas, I’m white and middle-aged, so golf content finds me wherever I roam, click, swipe, ride or recline. Along those lines, no golf brand gets all up in my business on anywhere near as regular a basis as Callaway does. The company isn’t pushy about it, though, so the distraction barely rises to the level of, say, a lethargic gnat. Also, especially in the digital sphere, Callaway attacks its mission differently than its lifestyle-brand peers. There’s an informality to the company’s approach, an unabashed enthusiasm to entertain and inform, a relative discretion when it comes to self-promotion.

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There’s also an unusual degree of risk-taking, at least for an established upscale brand like Callaway. Take the brand’s just-launched weekly talk show, Callaway Live, which debuted the first of its 22 first-season episodes on Monday night. To begin with, each ep will run 25 minutes in length and feature a guest of at least moderate renown. Additionally, for those unable to unpack the sophisticated wordplay in the show’s moniker, it airs live on the web. Is this a major-brand first that doesn’t involve live music? Even if it’s not, the live-without-a-net component makes Callaway Live the rare piece of content to actually merit inclusion of the word “ambitious” in the hear-ye-hear-ye press release.

What I like about Callaway Live is that it feels shaggy and unrehearsed, as if some random dude happened upon a talk-show set and was double-dog-dared to do a half-assed Jimmy Kimmel impression for 25 minutes. I mean that as a compliment: host (and Callaway marketing SVP) Harry Arnett doesn’t inflate the proceedings with too much importance. Unlike a majority of his talk-show peers, he appears quite aware that his oeuvre isn’t likely to be placed in a time capsule for future generations to marvel over.

Really, he’s just some guy talking about something he loves and attempting to convey his delight to whoever happens to tune in. That approach serves his first interview, with broadcasting legend Dick Enberg, exceedingly well. One senses that Arnett would ask the same questions if he were stationed next to Enberg at an airport bar or in a holding cell.

Does the first episode of Callaway Live hit a few of its beats - the nakedly product-promotional check-in with Hashtag Chad, especially - too hard? Yeah. Overall, though, it feels like a singular entity within the brand-content world. It might not make me yearn to slip into a pair of retro Payne Stewart knickers, but it’s ideal easy-viewing fodder for golfer guys and gals.

At the same time, the show itself is almost besides the point. As a marketing/media-type writer person, I’m required to fall over myself praising Red Bull’s content strategy, even if X-treme para-power-curling isn’t my particular cup of overcaffeinated tea. Still, I’d like to make the argument that Callaway is every bit Red Bull’s equal in this sphere - and perhaps its superior.

Callaway’s efforts, while professionally realized and shot, have something of a D.I.Y. feel to them. Contrasted with the double-lacquered sheen of Red Bull’s programming, however, they come across as doodles on a sketchpad - and are more compulsively watchable for it.  

This isn’t to dump on Red Bull, a super-sharp brand that went all-in on brand content at a time when most marketers were still paying actual, valid U.S. currency for banner ads. And perhaps I’d feel differently about this if I were a 20-something competitive urban kayaker, as opposed to a paunchy couch dweller. But if you’re asking me to choose one brand and one brand only that has a great handle on the whole content thing, the answer right now is Callaway.

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