Direct to Golf Consumer: How Social Media is Changing the Way We Buy Equipment
Mindlessly swiping through Instagram, you notice that Puma Golf just dropped sleek new shoes within the past hour. You enter your size and favorite color, and within seconds a pair is en route to your home — and you’ve never even left the app. Or your couch. This isn’t the future. It’s happening now.
“You can buy our clubs, shoes or apparel without leaving social media, and that’s key,” says Rachel Rees, the head of communications at Cobra-Puma Golf. “A lot of people want that instant gratification; they don’t want to have to do something else first like visit our website. So we make the process super easy — and we’re seeing results.”
Of course, that’s only one way that golf equipment companies are reaching you via social media. It’s not just about selling you products, but more about engaging you. Brands are learning your likes, dislikes and tendencies when you visit their various platforms. They know how long you’re perusing their videos and photos. They’re relying on their ambassadors to reach millions of golfers. They’ve got influencers unboxing their latest clubs and balls online. And they’re creating YouTube shows for you to binge-watch. In other words, they want to be in your face at every turn, wherever you go on social media. Is it working? They think so.
“Social media’s been our most powerful tool for how we communicate with consumers,” says Michael Barbuti, program manager for social media at TaylorMade, who perpetually supplies fresh content to the likes of TikTok, YouTube, Instagram and Facebook. “At the press of a button, we have access to more than 3.4 million people. We’ve increased our social following by 500,000 new people year-over-year… that’s a lot of new direct communication that we generally would not have. [Selling] direct-to-consumers has become extremely important. Through social media, we provide direct links to purchase our products and track them. It allows us to provide a great consumer journey that’s customized for each person.” It’s safe to say that TaylorMade officials may well know your shopping habits better than you do.
A lot of what grabs your eyes comes down to presentation. Larger brands rely on their PGA Tour and LPGA Tour staffers, as well as celebrities, trick shot artists, golf influencers, socialites, athletes from other sports and a wide range of others to generate ever-fresh content as often as possible. Maybe they’re posting selfies with a particular club in their hand. Perhaps they’re wearing an article of subtly logoed clothing from a brand. Or they’re giving out quick lessons and tips, using a brand’s products.
“Key influencers have an audience that they already connect with — experienced golfers and newcomer — which makes them great brand ambassadors,” says Rees. “It’s huge for us because it reaches their audience, and it’s not us as a brand saying how great our products are — it’s other people speaking on our behalf. It’s definitely part of our overall social strategy moving forward.”
In some cases social media is also changing ambassadors’ lives. Consider influencer Cassandra Meyer, who PXG signed to play in its VIP events. The former aspiring pro would probably compete well on the LPGA Tour. But during one recent round in Scottsdale, she admitted that she doesn’t want to stress over every shot as a tour pro and is extremely content earning her living as a brand ambassador. It helps that she’s very successful online, with 322,000 followers on Instagram alone.
Many brand ambassadors score free products and create organic online content with it — meaning that they post a snippet about a product in the form of a blurb, article, video or maybe an in-depth review. And it might suddenly be seen by millions of people, either because they’re uber popular or because other influencers happened to “like” and share the post. It can truly make or break a product. Or an entire brand. One trendy golf equipment website recently posted product reviews that gave small startups Payntr Golf and Red Rooster Gloves credibility and put them into the mainstream overnight. Spokespeople for both brands said sales went from stagnant to swamped within hours of the posts.
Still, much of what you see directly from major companies has less to do with equipment than entertainment. “True, the most impactful stuff we post on social media is new product announcements, because we’re an equipment company,” admits Jeff Neubarth, executive producer of Callaway Media Productions. “But we’re not announcing products every day. So, to keep people engaged with us, we post other content that allows Callaway to be relatable, approachable and a brand you want to support because we’re doing things that are in lockstep with what you want to see online.”
The best-performing social media content that Callaway has posted? Two YouTube video series. One is the interview show Range Talk. The other is the seven-part Rogue Race, in which eight tour pro/ ambassador teams compete against the clock in different skill challenges on a nine-hole course. Picture them hitting shots under pressure quickly around a course, as they motor around in a souped-up golf cart. Both shows have been huge successes with viewers. The first Rogue Race episode alone garnered 338,000 views.
Several TaylorMade videos have gone viral, too, including Tiger Woods demonstrating a drill he’s practiced since he was young and the brand’s tour pros breaking glass targets of each other’s faces with stingers (which has been seen by more than 1.35 million people at last glance). “If we’re putting it out, it’s most likely going viral in the golf space,” says Barbuti. “Our most viral video is the next one.”
But as the online space gets increasingly crowded with golf brands competing for your eyes and money on the same platforms, there may ultimately be some fallout. But no one currently seems overly concerned. “We know everyone’s out there,” says Rees. “Social media is an amazing and cost-efficient way to get in front of golfers — provided we stay on top of trends and remain part of the conversation. We reach a ton of people with the right content and can make our products look really great. It’s the single best way to reach consumers … for now.”