A few years ago, the PGA Tour put out a series of videos via its YouTube channel. Each was a spotlight of a star player—Dustin Johnson, Luke Donald, Bubba Watson, Matt Kuchar—and each featured the sort of footage fans (that anyone, really) would expect from the world of professional golf: the slow-mo footage of a power drive, the miraculous escape from sand traps, the pristine putts sunk in tight focus.
The videos were part of the PGA Tour’s long-running campaign “These Guys Are Good,” and they delivered on that promise. The players were good—the very best—and all those intimate close-ups were a fine way to watch them work.
But starting today, the marketing people at the PGA Tour will be doing things a little differently. “These Guys Are Good,” the trusty tagline in service since 1997, is being retired. Taking its place is a new slogan, “Live Under Par.” It marks the start of an ambitious—and, Tour officials hope, ultimately transformative—effort to reinvigorate the PGA Tour’s fan base while simultaneously drawing a new audience.
And, given golf’s ongoing struggle to regain the glory days of Tiger Woods’ dominance, the initiative comes at a critical time.
The most noticeable feature of the new campaign, developed with a creative assist from L.A.-based branding and marketing shop Troika, will be to augment the usual content that focuses solely on the technical aspects of play with content that includes softer and more personal elements such as the experiences of the fans who attend tournaments and the lives of the golfers when they’re not playing golf.
“‘These Guys are Good’ did an outstanding service in 20 years to establish the PGA Tour as the preeminent golf league, but it had the camera locked down inside the ropes,” explained PGA Tour CMO Joe Arcuri. “It was more of a spectator view than watching these guys practice their craft. The new campaign goes beyond competition to capture moments [such as] how they interact with fans, and charities. We pulled the camera back and are capturing all those moments that happen week in and week out.”
“The campaign is there to pivot the brand, to make it more modern, fresh and fun,” said Gil Haslam, executive creative director at Troika. Having enjoyed going to PGA Tour events himself, Haslam was long frustrated by his having to explain to friends that golf really was exciting to watch. The new campaign, he said, will tap into the personalities and excitement that are already part of pro golf and bring them to audiences via their screen of choice. “The product was always fantastic,” Haslam said. “What we wanted to do was open it up and provide the authentic, 360-degree view.”
“Live Under Par” will itself live across all social-media channels in addition to print and TV.
The direction of the new creative found its impetus in a comprehensive audience study that revealed, among other things, that while hard-core golf fans look to broadcasts for the technical content you’d expect (“tips” and “advice” for their own games, for instance), another demographic the PGA Tour dubs “Sports Socialites”—and make up nearly a quarter of golf’s viewers—are looking for far more social and interactive content, including “player access” and the chance to “connect to others.”
Perhaps most telling is that while older viewers enjoy the usual competitive drama of televised tournaments, younger viewers are looking for “social connections” and for the players to be “relatable.”
With clear proof that fans are likely to embrace a more social and participatory approach, the new creative is heavy on audience-reaction shots and liberally peppered with Twitter exchanges posted in real time during play. According to Haslam, the social element also stresses an important attribute that allows the PGA Tour to trounce nearly all other live sporting events—the ability of fans to stand near the players they admire.
“No other sport can get you this close,” Haslam said. “You’re right next to the player who’s about to hit the ball. You can root for them, and that proximity is nowhere else.”
Like, say, an NFL game. “You’re not out there [on the field] with Tom Brady in between passes,” Haslam said. With golf, however, “the proximity is amazing. It’s a powerful connection of players to fans.”