Golfing Events are a Branding Exercise that Lasts a Lifetime
As the world slowly drags itself out of the global recession, the golfing industry, too, has seen development in various sectors.
Despite a number of clubs merging thanks to a decided drop in club membership and time spent on the course, the golf conferencing and events industry has remained surprisingly resilient.
According to Bradley Forge, one of the owners of Corporate Golf Solutions, an event management company in the golf sector, many golf clubs are ramping up their conferencing facilities in order to cater to business meetings and golf days.
“Clubs have had to reinvent themselves a little bit,” he explains. “The club that we’re affiliated to is Bryanston Country Club – a very affluent club, and funnily enough, the whole corporate and conferencing side of their business has now become a very important income generator.”
He goes on to say that because core revenue has taken a knock, some clubs have invested millions in upgrading their corporate and conferencing facilities – and more often than not, it has proved a successful endeavour.
“Conferencing and functions have become an important part of what they do because they cannot just rely on their members coming to play golf. So unless you’re very fortunate, this has been a lifesaver for certain courses,” Forge says.
He says that there are certain types of golfing events that have become rather popular over the years.
These are tournaments of sorts, some with the core focus of brand communication and customer loyalty, and some with a great charitable cause behind them.
But whatever the case may be, there is no other sport quite like golf, especially for companies who really want to get to know their clients.
“Golf is unique in that it is one of few sports where you’ve literally got half a day with your customer.
The social element to the golf is why the sport is used to do business. It’s a great relationship builder and you’re able to enjoy the company of your customer for a long period.”
Corporate golf events usually are CRM initiatives which reward customer loyalty, but can also be brand loyalty exercises or can be used to attract potential clients.
Although Corporate Golf Solutions is involved in planning and managing any number of golfing events at one time, one of their main clients is a luxury car brand that hosts an annual series of invite-only golfing tournaments, with many clients and ‘prospective customers’ anticipating the event.
“The golf club is a very tightknit environment and people talk about where they played.
Quite quickly word gets around in the golfing community,” Forge explains.
This gives this event a kind of exclusivity that the company is happy to have. The tournament is also part of a global event, taking place in over 50 countries around the world.
A variation of this kind of word-of-mouth brand communication is helping a charitable cause.
“We’re involved in an event for Tsogo Sun called the Duke of Edinburgh, which is also part of a worldwide series of events,” says Forge, “but what Tsogo Sun has done is use it in conjunction with their casino properties.
They have taken an existing event and bought the license for South Africa to promote this as a Tsogo Sun event.”
He goes on to say that the event is built up and advertised in the months leading up to it, with people then going on the website to register, pay their fee, and play – provided they have an official handicap.
“Obviously there’s an element of Tsogo Sun inviting their tip top customers to play and those customers don’t pay, but outside of their own people, the tournament’s open.”
Although there are numerous CSI golfing events that take place across South Africa, Forge says that the main challenge with these is that many feel that one can simply ‘knock a golf day together’ and raise a hundred grand.
To add to this issue, golfers in particular are being targeted because they are “perceived to have the money, so there are tonnes of corporate days which are charity-based.”
But perhaps one of the biggest challenges that Corporate Golf Solutions faces on a regular basis when approached to run an event is client expectations.
“It’s about managing expectation in terms of budget and what you can and can’t do,” says Forge.
“You will find companies that want to put together a golf day – particularly companies that haven’t done this before – and ask for a proposal and a selection of venues.
We then give them a proposal and a proposed budget and often they are surprised by how much it costs.
So that’s the first challenge: has the company set aside the right kind of budget, and to every company our advice is, if you’re not going to put the money towards promoting your brand in the right way, rather don't host the event.”
General event management processes and logistics apply to the golf industry in much the same way as the business events industry.
However with a golf event, there are added complications when someone is confirmed to attend and then doesn’t arrive – this directly affects their fellow participants and their ability to compete and therefore enjoy the event.
Forge says that the digital era has really helped in this department and golfers receive emails, SMS’s, tweets and Facebook notifications to ensure they are fully informed.
And if that’s not enough, Corporate Golf Solutions has gone one step further to acquire the license for a product called VPAR Live Golf Scoring.
“Golfers capture their scores on a ‘scorepad’ instead of an actual scorecard, but because it’s all being captured electronically, they are able to view a live leaderboard and monitor their performance through real-time scoring. So it’s created a whole new dimension to our business.”
He even goes on to predict that this device could change the way golfers interact.
“Soon, I think, you’ll see people just doing everything electronically. The app is coming out now where people can download it to their iPhone – and it won’t be far away where everyone is just capturing their scores on their phone.”
VPAR has been functional in South Africa for three or four years, and, according to Forge, it’s great for adding excitement to events by keeping all the golfers engaged – not just those who are playing well.
Previously if the participants were having an ‘off-day’ they would lose. Now through VPAR, they are constantly monitoring their progress on the leaderboard.
As a whole, the golf industry on the continent is gaining momentum, with a number of countries like Nigeria and Kenya focusing on the sector.
“Kenya seems to be taking quite a strong view on golf where they want to market themselves as a possible golf destination,” Forge says, “Obviously the markets there are not as good or as developed as they are here, but you can see as Africa is developing and business is improving that there will be more people who play golf because they can afford it. So by virtue of that, we will begin to more corporate events starting to happen in these areas.”