The traditional perception of golf usually evokes images of diamond-patterned shirts, cheese cutters, pastel sweaters, loafers and affluent white men. This long-standing reputation is so entrenched that it even led to the urban myth that the word golf was in fact an acronym for 'gentleman only, ladies forbidden'. This, of course, isn't true, but the stereotype has long prevailed in golfing, leading to it being seen as a rich man's sport or a hobby for retirees.
NZ Golf is attempting to break this notion down, releasing an integrated campaign aimed at young women dubbed 'She Loves Golf' to let them know the doors are open. And also, we imagine, to have a positive impact on golf’s declining membership numbers.
Augusto account manager Siobhain Hayes says NZ Golf approached the agency with the challenge of making golf relevant to a younger female market, which she says was “a bit of a difficult one”.
“Because the perceptions of golf in New Zealand are that it’s a bit fuddy duddy, so for NZ Golf to go out to the younger market and say ‘No, it’s cool’ was never really going to work,” she says.
As a solution to this problem, she says instead of trying to get younger women to go to golf clubs, NZ Golf would bring golf to them. “So we took golf to younger females through social media feeds and then we did activations throughout the country.”
To get the ball rolling NZ Golf and Augusto enlisted the help of a few well-known Kiwis including TV presenters Toni Street, Laura McGoldrick and Amber Peebles, pro-golfer Lydia Ko and YouTube star Jamie Curry to jump on-board as ambassadors.
A launch event was set up on 30 October in Remuera, where the ambassadors were in attendance alongside VIP guests and media, who chipped, putted and drove, and drank bubbles. Sports presenter Jenny-May Clarkson was the MC for the lunchtime event.
“Those guys started spreading the word on social media. We got them some golf lessons and they all got out and played and then a lot of other people started jumping on board too and then there was a really good social media following behind it.”
Included in the campaign were She Loves Golf pop-ups in Dunedin, Auckland, Christchurch and Wellington where women were taught how to hold the club for the first time and all the basics.
As well as the pop-ups, clubs and driving ranges ran over 79 events throughout the country, where they used She Loves Golf branding.
Hayes says the campaign was designed for a huge push throughout November and had great results. “The website in the month of November had 10,500 new users so that was a really great result because we didn’t have big media spend and it was all done through media reach rather than media spend.”
Through the website women can find out more about golf and how to sign up to clubs in their area.
NZ Golf has also said the campaign had the highest initial engagement from any NZ Golf campaign ever.
There will be another push of the campaign this year, she says.
She also says a lot of the feedback on the campaign has also been anecdotal. “From clubs saying they have had women sign up and they have never had so many women coming through the doors.”
One approach Hayes says helped was the decision to tap into pre-set behaviours noticed among young women online.
“[Women were] following lots of health and yoga pages and health and lifestyle has really gone off, especially across Instagram. So we decided to include golf as part of that healthy lifestyle choice. It’s still social, it’s still cool and you can be outdoors still in your active wear …”
The campaign is a long-term one, she says, as she doesn’t expect NZ Golf will see massive results straight away. “And that’s why NZ Golf have also pitched it to the board that it’s a long-term strategy and that it’s quite a big step to try and get people to change their attitude towards golf and then change their behaviour to get them playing golf.”
She says one of the main goals of the campaign was to get women joining younger, so they would be more likely to be lifelong club members, and loyal to golf. “A lot of the issues are that women only start to consider golf when they are retiring, so it was trying to get more people interested in it earlier, so it’s not just a retirement sport.”
Lydia Ko’s influence on women playing golf has been huge, she says. “She presented a good opportunity to grow that even more so there has definitely been an uptake with her popularity over the last couple of years, so it was good to have her involved.”
Men have also been really supportive, she says. “I think especially in the clubs. They are just happy to see people appreciating golf … I think next year we would like to have more male ambassadors on-board to promote it too, to encourage more women to get involved.”
NZ Golf marketing manager Jan Rowsell says the campaign launched off the back of Love Golf, an earlier initiative. "Love Golf, launched with the clever use of a video starring Lydia Ko and Israel Dagg, introduced golf to a youthful audience using humour and a couple of high profile names, and by utilising social media it tapped directly into the daily lives of those it was designed to reach," she says.
"In the absence of a brand such as the All Blacks, Black Caps, Silver Ferns, Black Sticks etc, the Love Golf brand is about creating a brand the public can engage and identify with. To get away from the perception of golf being elitist, traditional, old and boring. Love Golf gives us a brand that’s edgy, unique, fun and youthful."
She Loves Golf gives the industry a hero brand to target females, she says. "We can start breaking down perceived barriers - time constraints, fears of wearing the wrong thing and all the intimidating rules - and talk to women in a fun and social way. The main purpose is to showcase to females that golf is welcoming and fun; it’s a great game for life."
She says a big challenge for New Zealand Golf is overcoming the apathy that can be prevalent at clubs. " ... and get their buy-in for such initiatives and the pleasing thing about She Loves Golf is it gained the highest club engagement from any initiative to come out of NZ Golf."
Sadly for golf lovers, the sport has been in a spot of trouble in New Zealand of late, with membership numbers dropping in the thousands. While 425,000 New Zealanders claim to play at least one round a year, club membership has dropped to 115,000 from its peak of 132,000 in 2001, according to Stuff.
Source - NZ Golf 2014
In 2013 3Newsran a story about dwindling membership numbers. The piece said members were aging, and there wasn’t enough new members coming in to take their place, with Christchurch’s Hagley Golf Club (the second oldest in the country) hitting an all-time low in membership numbers in 2012 at 120, and faced liquidation. After offering a lower rate per year, it paid off and the club managed to stay afloat.
So, it’s obvious why NZ Golf has changed its approach. Older players are staying, but not enough newbies are joining, so why not target an untapped market in golf in the form of young women? And with Lydia Ko doing so well, becoming the world number one female professional golfer at only 17 years of age last year, it’s a good time to be opportunistic.
There’s also something to be said of the use of influencers to get a younger market interested.
YouTube stars, Instagram personalities and Tumblr bloggers have accumulated audiences that can stretch into millions, and brands are increasingly looking to partner with these nouveau celebrities to reach elusive millennial consumers.
In a release, Augusto said a single She Loves Golf Instagram post by YouTube star Jamie Curry achieved 19,000 likes.
Last year, Kiwibank partnered with Curry on a video series aimed at reaching the 16 to 20-year-old market who make up the bulk of her audience of 1.4 million YouTube subscribers and ten million Facebook fans.
The bank’s head of marketing comms and content Regan Savage told NZ Marketing the video series, called the KB Series, had a very high level of engagement.
“We were getting reach and views in the millions, and it was 95 percent organic on Facebook,” he said.
While likes and views don’t automatically equate to business results, Savage and his team parlayed the engagement into a complementary display campaign targeting Kiwis aged 16 to 20.
“We used that data to build a lookalike audience for the promotion of our tertiary offering alongside that,” he said. And Savage says this resulted in the “most successful mid-year tertiary campaign” Kiwibank had ever run, and added that the investment was but a fraction of what normally would’ve been spent on a conventional campaign.
So, NZ Golf can only hope Curry’s involvement in its campaign will garner a similar effect and that her army of fans will be hitting the green soon.