By UTalkMarketing Editor, Clark Turner.
Think Golf and think middle-aged, middle class men eyeing up the day they retire? Right? Think again. VisitWales is targeting a new breed of golfer in a drive to highlight its sports offerings in the country, while boosting tourism in general.
Before 2001 Golf was not a huge marketing priority, but that all changed when Wales won the right to hold the Ryder Cup in 2010. The then Wales Tourist Board launched a ten year golf tourism strategy at the end of 2002 aiming to fully integrate golf into all aspects and areas of Visit Wales’ work in marketing and promotion, development and training.
Key target markets for Wales were identified as UK, Ireland, USA and Northern Europe.
“Golf marketing is increasingly important for us,” Marketing Director for VisitWales, Roger Pride, told UTalkMarketing. “Prior to the Ryder Cup bid it wasn’t an area we invested hugely in and perhaps didn’t realise our competitive advantage.
“But having won the Cup for 2010 it’s back on the infrastructure and, with developments such as The Celtic Manor, we’re now addressing the importance of niche areas with niche campaigns.”
So how should marketers best tackle the area of sports marketing? According to Pride for him the objective has been to simply market Wales as a destination for leisure golfers.
Tactics have involved delivering a “compelling message” highlighting destination USPs.
“Initially we felt we didn’t have a competitive advantage over the well established markets of Ireland and Scotland,” said Pride. “But we then came up with the ‘Golf as it should be’ positioning.
“While our competitors have been targeting established golfers and the older market, we have been looking to younger golfers for whom time is more important than money. It’s not such a traditional market and means we can maintain traditions without being stuffy.”
He added, “It’s all about developing a proposition and identifying both the target market and the channels to reach them though. By segmenting our tourist offering we have the most potential.”
Studies of the US market revealed that VisitWales was unlikely to lure first time golfers who were looking more to Scotland and Ireland. Instead, a strategy was adopted to target those already acquainted with these markets and position Wales as a new destination for them to try.
Targeting both domestic and international markets has called for different tactics as dictated by resources. International marketing has involved trade, PR and digital work.
“In the international market, the role of travel has traditionally had more significance and golfers are more likely to work with golf tour operators,” Pride revealed.
“We’ve also been working with the media to put Wales on the map as a golf destination. People might know Wales as a country, but not necessarily as a golf destination.”
In the domestic market, TV advertising has appeared primarily on sports channels on the Sky platform with media space bought around golfing events. TV activity in the States has centred on the Golf Channel.
“We’ve needed to identify niche opportunities but with spin off to reach the business decision makers,” Pride added.
VisitWales currently has a email database of 125,000 subscribers who are on the receiving end of an eCRM programme of four seasonal emails. With an average click through rate of 58%, it’s way and above the industry average of 4.6%.
The secret of their success? According to Pride, it’s all down to tone of voice.
“We believe that we have to make our communications stand out and so we use humour,” he said. “We don’t imitate others and have our own personality and obviously we’re very pleased with how the database interacts.”
Perhaps not surprisingly, digital plays an ever increasing role in VisitWales’ marketing. A 2008 campaign aimed at the US featured a series of films starring an American and a Welsh national crossing the country in a golf cart.
They share a love of golf, beautiful scenery, history and culture, exploring some of the most stunning locations across Wales - in a golf cart, meeting the locals along their way.
Initally posted on acartacrosswales.com the work has since gone viral on YouTube and with its own Facebook fan page.
“It was about using golf as an entry point to promoting wider references across Wales and positioning the country as a destination,” said Pride. “It was an innovative way of drawing attention.”
Additional activity involved working with VisitBritain on their Be A Brit Different campaign.
The results have been unquestionable. The 2008 golf marketing campaign generated an estimated £1.8m additional tourism expenditure in Wales
A supporting golf brochure has been influential in a variety of different ways in people’s holiday decision making. Most notably more than one in three (37%) visitors have been influenced to take more trips to Wales.
Golf is generally speaking an expensive hobby, but most (82%) respondents have found the cost of playing golf in Wales to be less than or as expected.
2009 has seen a tightening of budgets with the pressure on to deliver more. So how is VisitWales meeting the challenge?
“We’re going more down the digital road. It’s a good way to develop conversations in key markets, delivering brand messages,” said Pride. “Generally, we’re trying to bring niche product messages into larger campaigns.”
“Like most tourist boards, we’re learning all the time. But interactivity is key so visitors become advocates of Wales.”
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