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Golf Getting Social: OEMs tap into massive online influence

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Social media offers an easy and relatively inexpensive way for players, golf brands and clubmakers to generate buzz around their products. While it’s certainly no secret that social media is playing an ever-increasing role in the lives of the players on the tours, the question is what impact is social media having on the companies behind the players and the people making the decisions about how to incorporate the dizzying array of social platforms available.

“Social is a very critical part to our business,” said Chad Coleman, social media manager at Callaway Golf. “We want our fans and consumers to experience us in a different way than any other golf company and the nature of social platforms like Twitter and Instagram allow us to do that in a quick and effective manner. If we’re bringing people closer to our brand, our products, our people and ultimately to the game of golf, that’s a pretty awesome thing.”

For Callaway, Coleman says, it’s all about being transparent and showing off the personalities behind the brand. To that end, the company has several key execs on Twitter including Harry Arnett, SVP of Marketing, Alan Hocknell, Senior VP of Research and Development, Roger Cleveland, Chief Club Designer; and Nick Raffaele, Head of Tour.

“We feel that it allows our fans to be more closely connected to everything going on at Callaway and to feel like they’re part of the experience,” Coleman said. “A wise man once said, ‘I don’t believe in brands. I believe in the people.’ It was Harry.”

With fan favorites like Phil Mickelson, Henrik Stenson, Lydia Ko and Morgan Pressel on the Callaway roster, the company is very active in the social space and is always on the lookout for new ways to engage fans in new and innovative ways.

In its Tweet To Unleash campaign, the company became the first brand to unveil a product in real-time with the use of Twitter hashtags. At the 2013 U.S. Open, Callaway partnered with Uber to give fans free rides to and from Merion in Callaway branded SUV’s. The company also did a project with LinkedIn where it utilized their application programming interface (API) to bring a more modern approach to networking on the golf course.

The folks over at Cleveland Golf/Srixon have been in full brand building mode lately, focusing particularly on building the company’s Twitter and Instagram following, including building a page where fans can share their #JourneyToBetter with other Srixon fans through social platforms such as Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

“We are making huge strides with the Srixon brand in particular,” said Alex DePallo, online editor. “Our Journey to Better campaign was nominated for a CLIO Sports Award, which is the highest honor in sports marketing. In addition to this, we are continuing to grow our presence on tour and have new, innovative products on the way. All of this comes together to allow me to have a huge amount of content that we can provide for our fans.”

Being in constant communication with the company’s Tour players and their agents in order to find ways to tap into fan following and in turn have them help promote the brand is a big part of DePallo’s job. With two of the PGA Tour’s biggest social influencers on staff in Graeme McDowell and Keegan Bradley, utilizing their massive following is huge.

“Social is very important to us,” DePallo said. “Being able to communicate our message to consumers on a daily basis is vital to our growth as a company. Golf is going to get more social because that is what it’s meant to be: social. It’s about friends getting together and having a good time on the course. Golf is meant to provide actual human interaction, but there’s nothing wrong with Instagramming a picture of your favorite hole or Vineing a great shot you hit to win a match.”

Jamie Lynn Davis, a content copywriter for Cobra-Puma Golf, says golf’s increased social media use is natural given fan’s expectations of receiving constant and immediate information on a daily basis.

“We are part of a generation that uses social media to get and share information,” Davis said. “They thrive on instant gratification. Golf fans and consumers want to be the first to receive news from us, whether it’s the latest buzz about our Tour players, behind the scenes content or the release of new Puma Golf apparel or Coba equipment – they rely heavily on social media for instant updates.”

Davis says Tour players and athletes in other sports as well are seeing that social media can be a great opportunity for them not only to build a brand for themselves, but to interact directly with their fans while at the same time supporting their sponsors.

Cobra-Puma boasts some of the most active – and perhaps more importantly influential – golf names on social media in Ian Poulter, Rickie Fowler, Lexi Thompson, and Greg Norman.

“Having the Tour players like Rickie, Lexi and Ian are great additions to our social media efforts,” Davis said. “They have a built in audience and fan base that want to know what equipment they are playing and information about how they warm up, or prep for Majors.”

Over the next year, fans of Cobra-Puma can expect to see exclusive content from the company’s Tour players, increased fan interaction, new giveaways and contests and a continued dedication to promoting their message of game enjoyment, helping more golfers, of all levels, enjoy the game.

“We’ve seen a lot of success around the majors and contests we hold during those weeks,” Davis said. “Hosting a contest allows us to draw attention to our players that week, engage with our followers, and have some fun while doing it.”

So, where do we go from here? Is social media just another passing fad like tasseled shoes, the chipper and colored golf balls (oh wait, they’re back right…?) As technology continues to advance it is likely that the game and its players will only become more interactive.

“Social media is here to stay,” said Callaway’s Coleman. “Different platforms will come and go, but the idea of golfers, brands and organizations finding ways to connect with fans and build relationships isn’t going anywhere.”

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John Lahtinen is a Connecticut-based writer with nearly 20 years of experience involving news, media, communications, higher education, PR and marketing. He has been playing golf forever and is still finding unique ways to ruin a good round. Adding to his confusion, he plays both right- and left-handed.

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The Gear Dive: Aaron Dill is back!!!

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In this episode of TGD brought to you by Titleist, Johnny has a dear friend and master wedge human Aaron Dill to chat about Cantlay, The Masters, and his new TSi3.

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TG2: Testing the NEW Cobra King Tour irons and the Ben Hogan GS53 MAX driver

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Cobra’s new King Tour irons with MIM technology are built for better players looking to hit precision shots. The feel is very soft and responsive while the smaller profile lets you easily hit any shot in the book. Ben Hogan has released their most forgiving driver, the GS53 MAX and it is easy to hit. Designed with a ton of tech, this driver is long and helps reduce that slice!

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The Wedge Guy: Equipment tidbits for you to think about

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One of the most fun things about being a golfer is that we all want to get better–hit drives longer and straighter, iron shots that find greens more often, pitches and chips that get closer, and putts that go in more often. And we all seem to take great pleasure in finding that next “missing link” in our bags that will help us achieve one of those goals.

Today I want to share some thoughts about how little things can often mean a lot when it comes to tweaking your equipment. On the surface, a golf club seems to be a pretty simple thing—a piece of metal, at the end of a tubular piece of metal or graphite, with a rubber-like handle at the end. But when that golf club is put into motion at 100 mph or so, a lot of dynamics begin to happen.

As we ponder the dynamics of the complex action of swinging a golf club and the broad set of mechanics that come into play on every shot, I thought I’d share some random observations I’ve made over the years about equipment cause and effect:

Increasing your driving distance: The industry has taken us on this dramatic quest for distance and power, and the average driver sold today is over 45” long. That’s two inches longer than the standard of 25 years ago. And while the humongous driver heads brag about “forgiveness”, the fact is that your longest drives (and straightest) will always come from dead center hits. It’s still a fact that a sweet spot miss of just ½” will cost you 7-9% distance loss, and a miss of 3/4” will increase that to 12-15%. I suggest you try gripping down on your driver an inch or more the next time you play and see if you don’t hit the ball closer to the sweet spot and see it consistently going longer and straighter. It’s been proven over and over again.

Examining iron specs: The “standard” way a set of irons was engineered for decades was that the irons vary in length by ½”, and in loft by 4 degrees. But the past few years – driven by the relentless quest for distance – we have seen the loft gaps increased to 5° at the short end of the set and as small as 2.5° at the long end. The harsh reality of this geometry is that almost every golfer will have much smaller distance gaps at the long end of the set than at the short end, where distance precision is critical. I have tweaked my irons for years so that I have smaller length and lie differences at the short end than the long, and that allows my distance gaps to be more consistent. Most golfers could benefit from examining their TRUE carry distances from club to club and then tweaking lofts and lengths to fix their gapping.

Fit your putter. It amazes me to watch how many golfers–even some of the pros on TV–and see the toe of the putter up in the air at address. Simple fact is that this makes the face point left because of the loft. I’ve become a true believer in putter fitting. A good fit will ensure that your putter really is aimed at the target, and that the lie angle allows the ball to come off the putter straight. Yes, the style of putter is a matter of personal preference, but a putter that is accurately fit to you makes this maddening part of the game much less so.

Watch your grips. We spend hundreds of dollars on a driver or set of irons, and we get disposable “handles”. It’s a fact that grips wear out. They get dirty. And they need replacing regularly. Take a close look at yours. Worn, dirty grips cause you to grip the club tighter to have control. And bad shots are much more frequent because of that.

Experiment. The toys are a big part of the fun of golf, so don’t be afraid to experiment. I’ve long suggested all golfers should try the blade style short irons of one of your better player friends or pros, but experiment with other clubs, too. Hit your buddies’ hybrids, fairways, irons, drivers. Try different golf balls. [But I just can’t buy that tees can make a difference, sorry.] It’s fun.

So, there you have some random thoughts of the hundreds that swirl around in my head. Let me know your other questions about equipment, and I’ll try to address them in future columns.

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