How Golf Town is getting back on course

After a year of using digital channels to tap into the growing popularity of golf, an "anthemic" new TV spot is the next step in the retailer's turnaround efforts.

Screen Shot 2021-06-11 at 11.47.37 AM

Golf Town is seizing on a surge in the popularity of golf with a new, integrated campaign that urges Canadians to get out and enjoy the game.

The campaign, created by Union, is the next step in the retailer’s ongoing “business turnaround” plan, according to Frederick Lecoq, chief marketing officer at Sporting Life Group.

Golf Town has been rebuilding its business since its parent company declared bankruptcy in the U.S. in 2016. The Canadian business was acquired by Fairfax Financial and CI Investments, which later merged the retailer with Sporting Life into Sporting Life Group.

The first goal in Golf Town’s rebuilding “playbook,” according to Lecoq, was to reconnect with existing customers, which it did by leveraging the large repository of data it had collected over years in business. Lecoq said the business had righted itself over three years and in 2019, “we started feeling the organization was in good health.”

With the retailer on better footing, plans were laid for what would become the campaign that has now been released. The campaign was “ready to go live,” but then the pandemic hit and “because of all of the uncertainty, we put it on hold,” explains Lecoq.

However, during the pandemic, golf saw a surge in interest and popularity, as it was seen as one of the few “COVID-friendly activities” – a game that could be played in a way that respected public health regulations while giving players an opportunity to get out and socialize.

“There is huge traction around golf right now,” says Lecoq. “There were 80 million rounds played in Ontario last year, despite the pandemic. The numbers we’re seeing are incredible.”

While popularity was surging last year, Golf Town nonetheless had to deal with lockdown measures across the country, as well as the cancellation of major events and tournaments that usually drove an increase in sales.

With that in mind, the retailer focused mostly on tactical ads that could had shorter lead times and could more easily respond to changing lockdown measures. Instead of flyers that drove to door-crasher sales, it focused on print ads and digital content that was more directly linked to an improved omnichannel offering and a message of practicing your game at home. Social content was also a big focus for the retailer, making that more of a “shopping trigger” than the golf clubhouse, helped by golfing influencers hosting live-streamed events and being present in conversations about tournaments when they returned ahead of the holidays.

But now that golf season is returning and lockdown measures are slowly being eased across the country – as well as the company being “ready from a brand activation perspective” for more than a year, he says – Golf Town was ready to release the campaign.

Billed as “anthemic” and “inspirational” by Lecoq, the campaign centres on a spot featuring Mike Weir and Brooke Henderson, the kind of golf stars that were a key component of the retailer’s social marketing. The spot encourages a love for the game by focusing on “play,” showing golf as something that can be fun and casual, which someone might not be aware of if all they’ve seen is the quiet broadcast of a PGA tournament.

Screen Shot 2021-06-11 at 11.45.47 AM“Our mission has always been to be more than transactional,” Lecoq says. “We want to be the home of golf in Canada, not just a golf retailer.”

To aid in that effort, Golf Town’s media buying has focused on audiences outside of its core demographic – including younger, more female and more casual groups, he says, part of an effort to break down perceptions that golf is an “elitist” game. The spot also features a range of people.

In addition to running on TV, versions of the spot will be running online, with the message also present on store wraps featuring scenes from courses near the location. The campaign launched on Monday, with media planning and buying handled by Genuine Media and Golf Town’s internal team.