Topgolf Ramps Up National Marketing With Expansion Push

Topgolf — an entertainment chain that combines a competitive driving range and a sports bar — is ramping up its national marketing in the U.S. to support a location expansion.

Topgolf, which uses micro-chipped balls that let players see how far they hit the ball and how close it fell to the hole, opened its first U.S. location in 2005. 

Founded in 2000 in the U.K. by brothers Steve and Dave Jolliffe, the chain's lead investors are now WestRiver Management, Callaway Golf and Tom Dundon (the Jolliffes continue to hold a minority interest).  The new owners have revamped the format and menu to appeal to a younger, more demographically diverse audience, shifting the dominant revenue stream from game fees to food and beverages, according to Golf Digest. There are currently 15 U.S. locations; the plan calls for having 50 within three years, and quadrupling annual visits to 18 million. (There are also three locations in the U.K.)



Up to now, marketing has been largely regional, relying on social media and word-of-mouth, with some digital and radio advertising. 

To support the growth push, the company set up national Facebook and Twitter channels. Working with The Marketing Arm, Topgolf has launched a Facebook advertising campaign targeting consumers between 21 and 39 within the top membership zip codes of Topgolf locations that have been open more than a year.  

With the Facebook accounts of current Topgolf members suppressed, the company is promoting a "First Timers' Club." In return for registering an email address and choosing a local Topgolf location, consumers receive a free lifetime membership and a coupon good for $10 off game play. Site users can also register to reserve a driving bay for a group during a first-timers' event being held at Topgolf locations on Aug. 4.

The campaign, looking to tap Millennials' fondness for all things retro and ironic, kicked off with a video that parodies a ‘90s sex education film. Dubbed "Your First Time, Myths and Misconceptions," the double entendre-heavy video features a turtleneck-wearing "doctor" reassuring and answering questions for those who've never visited Topgolf, interspersed with "testimonials" from former first-timers. The video has pulled more than 1,500 views since being posted on YouTube.

Other new content has been created for each of two additional advertising flights to follow this first one. Regional marketing managers have been provided with campaign resources to promote the First Timers' Club on a local level.

Those who haven't yet visited Topgolf tend to assume that the venue "is all about golf," and start to put up "mental barriers," such as assuming that the game is probably too hard or complicated for them, says VP of marketing Susan Walmesley. "The reality is that TopGolf is about more than golf — we call it 'the evolution of play,' " she says.

The campaign's creative tackles preconceived notions in part by showing footage of people dancing to live music and enjoying meals and drinks in the facilities, as well as the action in the driving range areas. But those shots were incorporated into the "first time" sex-ed parody concept in order to "give viewers a laugh, pique their curiosity and start to develop a connection with the Topgolf brand, so that the next time Topgolf comes up in conversation, anxiety is replaced with excitement," explains Walmesley.

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