Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Is Golf Tournament Sponsorship an Effective Form of Advertising?

Businesses are literally inundated with requests to sponsor local events and golf-themed fundraisers certainly rank at or near the top of the heap. I recently came across this posting by Ron Strand that supports the argument that golf events represent a good choice for advertising dollars and may actually offer a better return than more traditional media placements.

Golf tournaments have become a very popular way for charity to raise money. Probably the number one reason why most companies support a tournament is an affinity for the cause. But in addition to supporting a worthy cause, golf tournament sponsorship represents an opportunity for effective advertising. This article contains some anecdotal evidence to support this theory.

At a golf tournament a while ago, I happened to be on the same foursome and share a cart with one of that tournament’s major sponsors. This fellow was a marketing manager for a car dealership. His rather enviable job description included playing in tournaments that the company sponsored, which through the summer months amounted to about two or three a week. Of course, he had some other responsibilities like making sure the cars from the dealership were displayed properly and the gift bags his company sponsored got to every golfer. So it was a long day for him, showing up well before the tournament started and leaving long after the last after dinner speech was made. But even so, he still got to golf as major part of his job. He had a hard time garnering any sympathy from our group.

As we talked throughout the day, I learned that his job of playing golf had not come about by accident. A few years earlier, he had done some extensive research and analysis of the company’s advertising budgets, their media exposure and the cost effectiveness of the various types of promotion they were undertaking at the time. This analysis resulted in the very conscious and deliberate decision to drop their media advertising and focus their budget on event sponsorship.

In other words, they found that the caps and shirts they gave away at each golf tournament, the cars they had on display at hole-in-one and other contest holes, their logo on the program and on signs located around the golf tournament, and their name on the sponsor list in the paper and on the tournament website, and so on, resulted in more exposure and more people showing up at the dealership when shopping for a car, than the ads they used to run in the paper and on radio and television.

He would not divulge any numbers, but I can imagine what a major car dealership in a city of over a million would spend on advertising in a year. It would be millions of dollars. To divert this budget to sponsorships was a major decision. Given the money involved, I believe him when he talked about the homework they did before making the decision and the research they did on an ongoing basis to monitor the effectiveness of their expenditure.

He believed the strategy of sponsoring golf tournaments and other events was effective for a number of reasons. They appeared to be more a part of the community if they were associated with local causes and organizations. This elevated the perception of trust in the minds of consumers. The prizes and gifts they gave away, like caps and shirts, displayed their company logo to far more people for far longer, with that positive association, than any form of media advertising. And they could target their audience very carefully and specifically.

So when a charity calls asking your company for sponsorship of its golf tournament, think about supporting the cause, but also think about the win-win that can be accomplished by strategic placement of some of your promotion budget into golf tournament sponsorship.

Ron Strand is a part-time Instructor at the Centre for Communication Studies at Mount Royal College and the President of Strateo Consulting Inc. - a strategic marketing and communications consulting firm.
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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Mini-Golf as a Fundraiser? Why it is much more than a kid’s game.

Just about four years ago I left “corporate America” to fulfill a dream. As a golfer with a passion for the game, I always dabbled in the idea that some day I would run my own golf company, wake up each morning with a smile on my face and be a huge success doing something that I love. After learning about a new high-tech golf services company in Vancouver through a search of I devoured the website for LTS LeaderBoard ( a company that had been started by two Canadian PGA pros with a great idea – a way to add enjoyment and a “wow factor” to amateur charity golf tournaments. Within a month I was on a plane to Canada to sign the paperwork to become the 11th franchise partner and launch LTS LeaderBoard of Metro Boston South.

Fast forward to last month and the 24th Annual Conference on Philanthropy sponsored by the Massachusetts Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, a gathering of more than one thousand from non-profits across New England and beyond seeking new and innovative ways to make their fundraising events more successful. Golf has been recognized as the #1 fundraising vehicle in North America, more than a $3 BILLION/YEAR revenue generator, but what about mini golf? Isn’t that basically a kid’s game and a way for parents to occupy their children for an hour on that annual trip to the Cape? The answer is much more. Mini golf can be a powerful fundraiser and actually appeals to a much wider demographic than the traditional golf tournament. The real question becomes, “How do we deliver the message effectively and use the mini golf platform to benefit our non-profit?”

Consider the example of The Jimmy Fund Golf House of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the recent initiative to launch their “Mini-Golf for a Big Cause”. Those of you that follow charity golf tournaments will recognize The Jimmy Fund as the top of the food chain of tournament organizers, involved with over 150 events in 2007 raising more than $6.7 million dollars. The vast majority of those events are held in New England, jammed into the 6-month tournament golf season that starts around May 1 and runs through the end of October. That’s both the good news and the bad news of golf in New England. If you are considering a golf event locally you really have only a 6-month window. Yes, you can play a round on the Cape in December, weather permitting, but no charity wants to schedule their annual fundraiser when there is a very good chance that the conditions will be less than conducive. What that means is those 150 Jimmy Fund events are scheduled throughout 24-26 weeks at a rate of 4 to 6 events each week of the summer. During the peak of the season there are often 10 or more charity golf tournaments from The Jimmy Fund alone on any given week in June. From a broader perspective, there are more than 2,500 charity golf tournaments held in just southeastern MA and RI each year, in other words, more than 100 golf events each week! That translates to intense competition to attract golfers and the sponsors that are integral to the financial success of the event. The key question now becomes how to extend the tournament golf season beyond the traditional limits imposed by the local weather.

Two years ago I recognized that my LeaderBoard business had every opportunity to be successful for at least 6 months of the year but would be a real challenge during the “off-season”. Next week I will be running my 100th event involving LeaderBoard and with a lot of hard work we hope to continue the growth that we have enjoyed to date. Even more exciting is the potential that we see with Metro Mini Links to offer a golf-themed fundraiser literally anytime of the year, without traditional weather concerns being an issue. Consider what we can now offer: 18 holes of mini golf based on the award-winning Tour Links ( modular technology that we can deliver and set up at your location of choice when you want to schedule your event. At the end of the day, we pack up the course and leave your site, a school gym, auditorium stage, auto dealership showroom or office building, etc. anywhere we have a flat surface and about 3,500 square feet available, less than the size of a basketball court.

The complete portability is what caught the attention of The Jimmy Fund since they had already recognized the potential of mini golf as a strong complement to their ambitious traditional golf tournament schedule. Each year they have conducted several mini golf fundraisers at in-ground installations throughout the region. I recall reading about a tournament in Central MA that appeared in a Dana-Farber newsletter not too long ago. The addition of Metro Mini Links as an option now permits the scheduling of indoor or outdoor fundraisers on a year-round basis. The first two events in the “Mini-Golf for a Big Cause” were held this August and September at the Nashua, NH and Portland, ME locations of Bob’s Discount Furniture. “Crazy Bob” was not there but his sidekick Cathy Poulin greeted the participants and challenged the local DJ from the radio station to an impromptu competition. For a recap of the days’ events see the event website at . Each of the events raised more than $10,000.00 for The Jimmy Fund and hopefully will serve as the model for subsequent competitions in 2008.

So the answer to the original questions is a resounding YES! Mini golf can be a powerful fundraiser and now with Metro Mini Links, you can schedule your event anywhere, anyplace, anytime of the year.