Canadians needing a social outlet and a sense of recreational normalcy during the uncertainty of the pandemic in 2020 turned to golf in a major way. Now Golf Canada, with the support of industry partners, will build on the excitement, increased interest, and elevated levels of play with a national golfer retention campaign to welcome new and returning players back to the golf course in 2021.
The campaign – GOLF IS CALLING – is a Canada-wide marketing initiative to speak to new, younger golfers as well as the community of avid players, each uniquely drawn to the game whether it be for exercise, the social experience or the challenge of the sport.
The golfer retention campaign is being led in partnership with Golf Canada’s Industry Advisory Council, a group of industry professionals that includes course owners, operators, general managers, PGA of Canada professionals, superintendents, and other stakeholders in the game.
For Golf Canada CEO Laurence Applebaum, golf’s emergence through the pandemic as a safe, social, and inclusive activity during an extremely challenging period was a silver lining for a sport enjoyed by nearly 6M Canadians annually.
“Golf is a sport of invitation, where we bring others along to experience and enjoy the game for a lifetime. GOLF IS CALLING is also a return invitation to the avid players and new enthusiasts who enjoyed the game in record numbers this past year. It is also an outreach and welcome to young and diverse audiences and a powerful confirmation that our sport offers the healthy attributes, safe environment, and industry capacity of nearly 2,300 facilities to support physical, social, and mental well-being in a meaningful way.”
GOLF IS CALLING features a vibrant and new look for golf. The campaign messaging and creative was informed by deep market research as well as creative trends from across industries and broader sport to reflect an industry-wide effort to promote golf participation. This season long, national marketing campaign features a fresh and inviting energy as the calling for Canadians to play more golf.
“As marketers and sport leaders, we look for moments to connect with golfers, and this past year has offered an unparalleled signature moment for the golf community to influence and entrench behaviours that will benefit our sport for the long run,” said Golf Canada Chief Marketing Officer Vanessa Morbi. “With more than 700 customizable assets that golf facilities and industry partners can leverage in their marketing efforts, this is a special moment to rally the full weight and collective voice of our sport to inspire more play in 2021.”
The suite of tools is available to golf courses and industry stakeholders to share in national roll-out of the golfer retention campaign. The bilingual campaign will be presented as SORTEZ, GOLFEZ across all French language assets and Golf Canada will support the campaign with a paid media buy executed across social and digital channels.
In conjunction with the campaign, Golf Canada has also relaunched its website as a portal to enhance the golfer experience and support tee-time booking through a national course look-up tool. This feature can be found on dev-www.golfcanada.ca and will connect golfers with facilities across the country.
Despite a season suspended in most parts of Canada through early May, data from the National Golf Course Owners Association (NGCOA) of Canada reported a 18.9% increase in total rounds played across the country in 2020. Golf Canada members as well as public players who track an official handicap index experienced a significant lift in play, posting a record 7.8M scores to the Golf Canada Score Centre, a 7% lift over the prior year with monthly score posting records set from June through October.
Canadian levels of engagement in the sport mirrored strong growth metrics across North America as new and avid players invested in tee times as well as memberships, equipment, league play, junior golf, and instruction.
As Canadian golf facilities continue to manage the impact of the pandemic on non-golf revenues, the game is thriving as a safe and healthy recreational option that drives significant economic, employment, tourism, environmental and charity benefits to communities across Canada.
Supported by comprehensive healthy and safety protocols enacted by the golf community as well as adjustments made to the golf course experience, the sport is well positioned with momentum.
“Creating a national campaign that speaks to golfers of varying abilities and connection to the game is no easy feat, and we continue to be extremely sensitive to the disastrous impact of the pandemic which has taken a significant emotional, economic and mental toll,” added Shawn Evans, President and CEO of GolfNorth Properties who is also Chair of the Golf Industry Advisory Council. “At the same time, we see the opportunity in golf’s emergence through the pandemic to present our sport in a fresh way to new audiences with a visceral consumer experience that will be noticed.”