Tiger Woods. You can’t really think of or mention golf without the man whose image was, until lately, synonymous with the sport. While Woods may now be better known for his recent retreat from professional activities, he has undoubtedly brought our attention in golf’s direction, according to Howard Cossever of Creative Covers for Golf, a division of Creative Creature Toys Inc.
“It seems that everyone is focused on golf from the sidelines and everyone has an opinion about Tiger Woods,” he remarks. “It’s just going to spotlight golf again. It’s bringing it more to the mainstream of people’s consciousness, in my opinion, because suddenly, Tiger Woods is a personality. Is it good for golf?” Cossever questions, “I think it’s going to promote more awareness of golf.”
With the game on everyone’s radar, more gazes are likely to fall on and take notice of the on-course attire and accessories, enabling distributors and decorators to chip away at this market. A famed 15 minutes aside, sources tell Printwear that this status-oriented pastime is still going strong in the face of a recovering economy.
At the Fore!front
“We’ve seen that people, even in tight times, need to entertain and enjoy themselves,” remarks Mary Ellen Pahlka-Nichols, Bodek and Rhodes. “Maybe they’re not taking the lavish Trump-style vacations they used to, but they might pause a day to play a golf game.”
Having a tangible memory of that game, she adds, is appealing, especially for those in the winning foursome. “Many people see golf tournaments as one of the ultimate ways to network, being on a golf course for four to six hours with quality customers and prospects who have the time and money to devote,” states Nichols. “I still think it’s a very viable market.”
Hitting the green in style, today’s golfer wants moisture-management performance apparel, a trend that started with brands like Under Armour, adidas and Nike, according to Nichols. “The strategy was, outfit the players with styles that not only were great on the field, but you would wear after the game.”
People then started watching, and wanting those performance pieces, she says, without hesitation for higher price points because wicking apparel actually does more than the average golf garb. Driving that perceived value even further, textured athleticwear adds flavor to promotional golf programs. “People are now asking for some bells and whistles—give me some texture, give me some stripes,” comments Nichols.
Performance polos with horizontal stripes, squares and other patterns are selling well in the golf market and beyond, rippling outward as people don these shirts at work.
Another spec worth spending on is stain resistance, and Nichols also notes piqué’s popularity in performance apparel. “Piqué is now being made in performance wear, where people were shying away from piqué, they still love the knit and feel of it and it embroiders very well.”
Additionally, two-tone shirts, specialty insets and collar accents add value and style. “Performance is starting to replace some of the other high-end mercerized goods that often were harder to launder and take care of,” says Nichols. “These new goods, all polyester, go in the wash, and therefore they’re going to look great longer, last longer, there’s less to take care of and people are happier with the garments.”
Golf with the program
Today’s tee off can also be accompanied by appropriate headwear, and Pro Golf Premiums’ Judy Starling mentions some excitement surrounding new cap collections with a removable, and functional, ball marker built into the brim. “The logoed golf cap is an excellent item to hand out at an event because of the price point and exposure you can get, not only on the golf course, but everyday,” she explains.
A throwback headwear style, Cossever also names imprintable driver caps as a presently popular style. “They’re a bit retro, they’re very urban and very cool. And I think that demographic, the younger market, is coming to the forefront,” he remarks. “You see rappers wear them, so suddenly, pop culture transcends into golf, and vice versa. We talk about products from the golf world that go into the mainstream world, things like tech performance fabrics, wicking shirts, licensed apparel, everything of that nature from what was traditional in golf now goes into sporting wear. So they’re very blurry, those lines.”
Another interesting apparel angle, gift certificates make a smart buy for distributors and a convenient buy for their customers. “We sell gift cards to the distributor at a thirty percent discount,” says Starling, adding that they’re redeemable at the manufacturer’s website, where recipients type in the card number and are given the amount of the card on account for purchases. “The cards do not expire and make a great gift,” she goes on.
Either for events or the company store, corporate customers, Starling says, represent the largest market for golf apparel and accessories. “Because of the high quality of golf apparel, a lot of corporations have added these items to their company stores.”
While there are opportunities for golf-related gifts galore at corporate, the most packaging potential naturally awaits within the golf tournament, what Nichols calls a distributor lollapalooza.
“If you’re not currently doing golf promotions, I would stop at local golf courses, visit the local pro shops and ask who’s having tournaments coming up because chances are, they may not have a promotional-products company that’s handling that,” Nichols advises. Once there, an arsenal of questions are in order, such as: Who are you targeting for the tournament? Who are the sponsors? Who have you tapped? Can I help you get more sponsors? “If you can find people to help sponsor a tournament, you become an invaluable resource to any fundraiser,” she says.
Journey into a tourney
Similarly, Starling suggests discussing all available product options: “If a customer is ordering golf balls for an event, ask ‘are you awarding gifts at your event?’ ‘Have you considered giving golf apparel or gift cards as a gift for winning team, longest drive, et cetera?’ Customers may not think of buying these items from a distributor because they are available at retail stores. Also, it is very popular to give an apparel item in a duffle bag, shoe tote or along with a towel or umbrella, for example.”
Cossever emphasizes the effectiveness in working within your own backyard, encouraging distributors and decorators to join the local chamber of commerce, speak to managers of area bank branches, and forge relationships with politicians who, he says, love to get involved in tournaments, flash a smile and be out there. “It’s based on your local market and who you know who’s playing golf or involved with the clubhouse or the pro shop, the catering department. You can really mine that area though them,” he says.
With so many opportunities to tap tournaments, this avenue is a worthwhile endeavor, especially with possible sponsorship money on the table. “Some people give one, two, three shirts,” reports Nichols. “They’ll give award jackets, they’ll give wind shirts depending on the time of year, and almost always they’re including a cap and possibly a bag to put everything in.” The sponsorship cash flow, she adds, has budget-budging potential. “If you’re getting one, two, five, ten, fifteen sponsors, that allows a promotional-products distributor to really expand the budget, where you’re looking at multiple imprint areas, like on the sleeve, on the back of the shirt, sometimes on the collar. It can fund a lot more profit opportunities for the distributor.”
Depending on the tournament type, those involved may be looking to really impress players and participants, presenting another sourcing scenario. “If you’re having it at a great club and you’re trying to woo high executives, they’re not only going to want the basics, but they’re going to want branded merchandise,” states Nichols. From the course to the office, people want to wear status in the form of higher-end, branded apparel. “It’s also co-branding,” she goes on. “If the adidas logo is on a piece and my logo is on a piece, I take the seven-hundred-fifty-million dollars that adidas spends on an annual basis on their good marketing, and it’s tied in with my good marketing.”
Brand names co-located with tournament logo and associated sponsors make for pieces people will be proud to wear. “Playing in a tournament is like a status symbol,” notes Nichols. “And when you pair that with a branded piece of apparel or a cap or bag, it’s a total win.”
Pro Golf Premiums’ Starling agrees, backing brands because of their customary quality. “Golfers love to wear their favorite brands on the course,” she says, “which also makes the golf cap one of the most popular items for co-branding.”
Coordinates are another approach, with many companion styles available, and Nichols names quarter-zip and performance-wicking fleece pieces and two-tone, short- and long-sleeve Ts as examples. “When you go in to sell a program, always have some accessories as a continuity item,” she says, offering options for gifts and awards, for now and to follow-up on later. “That way, they can up their sale and perhaps talk about future possibilities.”
Cossever offers another strategy for success with golf promotions: Be a sourcing maven, because oftentimes, the charity volunteer tasked with sourcing shirts, balls, caps and towels becomes overwhelmed, with good reason. “If you can make their life easier and say ‘no problem, call me, I’ll look after everything for you,’ oh, they’ll be so pleased.”
And when those pleased people must procure product in the future? “They’re not going to buy it online next time,” Cossever asserts, “because it’s going to come from three or four or five different places around the country and there are going to be some issues with colors that don’t match and sizes that are a little bit wonky.”
Bolster the back nine
Positioning yourself as a partner of sorts by presenting total-package solutions with multiple, unique items put together in a smart way will make that volunteer’s life easier, and pretty soon, your on-par promotional services will be as popular as Tiger Woods… used to be.