Golf program tees off

Hoping to catch the golf craze on the upswing, Sports Marketing Strategies, of Toronto, is organizing an extensive amateur golf event marketing program modeled on a similar program in the u.s.Four years ago, the Amateur Golfers Association of America was formed...

Hoping to catch the golf craze on the upswing, Sports Marketing Strategies, of Toronto, is organizing an extensive amateur golf event marketing program modeled on a similar program in the u.s.

Four years ago, the Amateur Golfers Association of America was formed to promote the Amateur Golfers Association Tour, a series of men’s and women’s golf tournaments played annually across the u.s.

Sports Marketing Strategies has secured the right to run Canadian versions of the tours, which will tee off this summer if the firm is successful in raising operating funds through the sale of sponsorship positions.

The tour is to be run under the auspicies of the newly formed Amateur Golfers Association of Canada, which Sports Marketing Strategies founded this year to be a national governing body for Canadian amateur golf.

The agac is responsible for setting rules for amateur play, organizing aga tournaments and raising the sport’s profile.

The agac is currently being funded and marketed by Sports Marketing Strategies, but will eventually become an independent, non-for-profit body.

According to Don House, president of Sports Marketing Strategies and acting executive director of agac, 83% of active Canadian golfers do not belong to a private or semi-private club.

‘If you belong to a private club, you can get a handicap and work your way up in Canadian tournaments,’ House says.

But he says ‘there is no organized program for the majority of golfers, no opportunity to play tournament golf across Canada.’

A 1991 National Golf Foundation study found that there were roughly four million golfers in Canada, and their ranks have been swelling steadily, attracting more players aged 25 to 35 and more female players than before.

As a group, golfers have more than double the national average of university graduates and 51% are in professional or management positions.

As well, golfers in the 25-35 age category have household incomes 25% higher than the national average.

According to House, there are four associate sponsor positions and one title position available. To date, only two associate sponsors have signed on, Nissan Canada and Appleton Rum.

‘It’s an ideal opportunity for Canadian companies to reach golfers nationally with a grassroots marketing program,’ House says.

Nissan and its Infiniti division have long been involved with golf events such as the Nissan Amateur Series and the Nissan Best Ball tournament, as well as the Infiniti Championship, a stop on the Canadian professional tour.

According to Michael Ney, Infiniti general manager, the aga tour will provide an effective way to present the product to this market and get on the ‘shopping list’ of eventual buyers.

‘It’s an opportunity to put the product in front of the people in a comfortable environment – the golf course,’ Ney says.

Infiniti will have vehicle displays at all events, and dealer representatives to organize test drives for those interested, in addition to test drives at the events.

Infiniti will also explore database marketing opportunities arising from the events.

‘We’ll be in touch with everyone who registers for tournaments,’ Ney says.

agac founders anticipate up to 10,000 members in the first three years of the association, but, according to House, sponsors will reach not only members, but hundreds of thousands of unregistered amateur golfers across the country.

Collateral materials, including 5,000 posters and 100,000 brochures, will be sent to golf courses and retail outlets across the country and the association will have a presence at consumer golf shows, which this year attracted more than 100,000 golf-addled visitors.

The six-month promotional program includes direct mail opportunities from a database of 20,000 golfers, logo inclusion on collateral materials and on-site signage, corporate hosting and display opportunities.

House asserts that the agac database will be the country’s most extensive and reliable list of golfers and that the program can be customized to meet the marketing needs of individual companies.

The tour will also provide an opportunity for on-site consumer sampling, one of the strategies of Appleton Rum.

The Jamaican parent of Appleton has sponsored a professional tour stop in Jamaica for a number of years, and Appleton has been involved with amateur golf in Canada.

Douglas Emanuel, Canadian brand manager for Appleton Rum, says an aga tour is a good vehicle for the company as golfers tend to be consumers of premium products.

‘This is part of an ongoing awareness-building program,’ Emanuel says.

‘Because of the nature of the venues, it’s also a good opportunity to speak one-on-one with potential buyers,’ he says.

Appleton will sample its product at tournaments across the country, in accordance with the rules and regulations at each venue.

It is not known if sampling will be done before or after tournament play.

The aga has 40 tournaments scheduled across Canada in which members get a chance to compete in handicapped flights and accumulate points toward prizes and a place at the Regional Championships, with National Championships to follow.

For a $50 fee, agac members get a golf kit featuring various golf products, an agac-logo golf shirt, regular issues of the agac newsletter, ‘The Leaderboard,’ a Royal Canadian Golf Association rulebook and a chance to receive an accredited handicap from the association.