When was the last time you sat down and enjoyed a relaxing game of golf on the good ol’ television? If you are a millennial, the chances of such a scenario are slim to none. Golf brand marketers are struggling to catch and keep the attention of the ever-important millennial demographic.
Golf popularity is quickly dying out, as evidenced by NBC’s worst overnight ratings for its recent Ryder Cup broadcast. Many speculators blame poor ratings on the great decline of the once-wonderful Tiger Woods. But it cannot be entirely Tiger’s fault, because the golf popularity problem stems farther than poor TV ratings. Public enthusiasm for the game of golf is underwhelming, regardless of what platform is being assessed, and therein lies the problem. Millennials are just not in to the game, they find it too slow, too difficult, and too expensive.
Golf brands are making efforts to make the game more appealing to the hard-to-impress younger demographic. Golf Digest recently did a redesign to appeal to a younger, hipper audience. Part of the redesign was to incorporate celebrities that are popular with millennials on the magazine’s front cover, as if to say, “Look! Jimmy Fallon likes golf, you should too!” GFORE, a high-end golf apparel manufacturer, has even tried to make golf a little “sexier” with its rebranding and editorial-style website.
Does golf have a fighting chance at becoming relevant to millennials via digital media? If there were any way to save the game, going digital would be the answer. The Professional Golf Association (PGA) has plans of overhauling its web presence in the coming winter. The association has acknowledged that they can no longer ignore the powerful demographic. Kevin Ring, the CMO of the PGA stated, the association needs to “find ways of growing and evolving our social channels and digital platforms.”
The PGA is relying heavily on young golf stars such as Rory McIlroy and Rickie Fowler – who each have millions of social media followers – to help revive the sport. In sad comparison, the PGA has a measly 155K followers on Instagram, 700K followers on Facebook, and 708K fans on Facebook. Even the Major League Baseball (MLB) – which has ratings issues of its own – has 1.2 million followers on Instagram. For a game that lends itself so well to aesthetically pleasing courses, there is no excuse for the PGA to have such a paltry following on Instagram. The only excuse is laziness and lack of ingenuity in leveraging platforms that are popular with an important demographic.
The key to gaining popularity with the millennial crown lies in a brand’s ability to create content that millennials find interesting enough to want to share with their friends. If the PGA can create content that millennials want to interact with, and want their friends to interact with, then the content will spread through social networks like wildfire.
Considering today is opening day for the 2014-2015 PGA Tour, audiences (or what is left of an audience) may be surprised by some of the changes to come from the game of golf. It will be interesting to see if golf brands can walk the fine line of successfully appealing to a younger demographic, while still at the same time, not shunning their tried-and-true “mature” demographic that has stuck with them through the years.