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Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The USGA Needs to Stay on Message (and Find Some Actors Who are Golfers!)

Any political pundit worth their salt will tell you that running a campaign is all about staying on message. Having sat through countless PSAs by the USGA during the U.S. Open telecasts, someone needs to remind the American governing body of the game this fact. With the game of golf losing players hand over fist over the last ten years, they (along with a number of the other alphabet soup governing bodies in golf, namely The PGA, PGA Tour, RandA) have seen fit to spend tens of millions of dollars on consultants who continue to massage their egos by convincing them that golf and growth should be in the same sentence.
During the NBC broadcast we were pummeled with three campaigns - Tee it Forward, Get Golf Ready and While We're Young. There were too many confusing messages and one of these blue blood consultants should stop hanging out at the Merion clubhouse, earn their pay and tell the USGA that one of these campaigns is enough. So, let's take a look at the campaigns and their effectiveness - or not!

Tee it Forward.

Featuring Jack Nicklaus, the concept is that all of us should move forward one set of tees and make the game more enjoyable. No argument here and something we do in our group regularly.

Outcome - Good ad, good execution, clear message.

Get Golf Ready

Featuring Tom Watson, this one encourages new players to pay $99 for a series of five lessons and have fun, fun fun! There is no mention really of how it all works and the feedback from many clubs is average at best. The program is often managed by the assistant pro, players come for one or two lessons and then what do they do? Where do they play?

Outcome - Poor ad, average execution, unclear message.

While We're Young

Who doesn't love CaddyShack and the thought of the blue blazers actually watching the movie is hilarious enough. But, and it's a huge but, on the week that the USGA rolled out the ads to everyone to encourage us to get moving on the golf course, their own tournament rounds averaged 5 hours and 15 minutes. And this in two and three balls...no slow play penalties, just the odd warning thrown around for affect.
And the ads themselves featuring Golf's "A" List throw up many questions.
1. Why do agencies continue to employ actors, not golfers? Just watch the actors (not the celebs) - they don't know how to hold a club, address a ball, even walk like a golfer. One would think that the USGA would do authenticity well....wrong! Clearly, they were led up the garden path by an ad agency that knew nothing about golf.
2. Ah, Clint Eastwood and Arnie. This one will be good! Nope, they are never in frame together and it's no wonder that Clint is playing slowly, he is using a Tour Pro's bag at Pebble - where you can't actually carry your own bag. Again, just appalling in its lack of details and credibility.
3. Annika does a great acting job in hers but be honest, the first time you saw it did you know what she was doing with her hand? It's not until the Butch and Paula ad, which has a sub title explaining the Rodney Dangerfield "move" that you can understand what Annika is doing. Only then can you go back to Annika and say, oh I see!
4. The other Arnie ad features the (non golfer) actors pretending to be golfers...badly! The guy is thirsty and looking for refreshments? Who says that on a golf course? And, once again it's blindingly obvious that Arnie's piece to camera was shot with no other actors present. Having been told by Arnie "While we're young" the actor walks onto the tee holding his club only as non-golfers do. I know, I'm a nit picking, pedantic, old sod - but credibility and authenticity are key here and these ad fails on both counts.

Outcome - Poor ads, awful execution, mixed message.

Let's hope the USGA can decide which message is most important to them and focus on that in the coming months and leave the others on the shelf. And when making golf ads, use real golfers, will ya!