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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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