Selling Golf To Millennials


This week, a story ran in Advertising Age about Callaway Golf that really got me thinking. The premise was simple: golf amongst younger generations is not as popular as it once was, and major equipment manufacturers like Callaway are searching for new ways to connect with these audiences. Of course, this makes perfect sense. It's almost amazing that it took them so long to come to this conclusion.

It's highly likely, though, that Callaway had been planning some sort of change in approach to reaching a Millennial audience for some time now -- things like this don't happen overnight. But if you were to take a quick scan of their tactics in approaching this audience, you'd be forgiven for thinking they did in fact cobble this strategy together in no more than a meeting or two.

Hip hop, Vice, Red Bull and Snapchat all factor in to Callaway's efforts to connect with Millennials. It's basically a who's who of platforms and brands commonly thought to be favorites among Millennials. So what is the plan exactly? Callaway recruited the rapper Scarface, an avid golfer, to feature in a 10-minute video by Vice Sports that will go online in September. In the video, Scarface will take to the course and play with and show off new Callaway products. Additionally, Callaway is partnering with Red Bull Media House to produce a series of web shorts featuring Hank Heaney, a famous golf coach, working with various Red Bull athletes -- including a skateboarder, wakeboarder and a BMX rider -- to improve their swing. (As for Snapchat, Callaway has an active presence, often using celebrities to vaunt their gear.)

It's outside-the-box thinking, no doubt, especially for an established golf brand. Callaway is going through nontraditional channels, using nontraditional spokespeople, in an effort to make inroads with a segment of the population many think they've already missed the boat on. While you have to admire the effort, it all just seems a little forced.

This approach feels like a shortcut. It uses varied buzzwords we hear about so often in reference to Millennials -- hip hop! Snapchat! Red Bull! Vice! -- but doesn't ground them in the proper research and strategy needed for a successful long-term campaign. This is the type of approach that might briefly work because of its novelty, providing a one-time bump in sales, but it lacks the sort of long-term planning that is critical to creating loyal customers. Hats off to Callaway for recognizing a problem area and being aggressive and proactive in addressing it. But there's no hole-in-one approach to creating lifelong brand advocates. Instead, it's better to take a look at your swing and try to improve your game stroke by stroke.