Volume 4, Issue 1 – January 2014
Fellow Citizens of Crazy Town -
If golf is going to guarantee its own sustainability, it will be because golf regains its ability to attract young people. It’s pretty simple. If we don’t recruit the next generation of golfers, our game and business will contract when the baby boomers find themselves in doctors’ offices more frequently than on golf courses.
The alarm bell is ringing, folks. Our game has lost 30% of its players between the ages of 18-34 during the past 20 years. This is nothing to sweep under the rug. Historically, this is the age set when most people take up the game, and the segment with the highest golf participation rate. But we’re losing them in meaningful numbers. This trend is not likely to reverse by itself. Everything that has always been attractive about golf, still is… but the game’s benefits must be sold to the Millennials generation, NOW. Make no mistake about it, golf’s competitive benefits are under siege versus other recreation choices, including the most formidable non-activity of them all, screen time.
Despite more than 1.5 billion monthly users, it’s difficult to be convinced that Facebook (FB) is the tool to drive the game to them. If I were to allow my cynical side to come out, I’d say that FB appears most magnetic to people (especially self-absorbed ones) with a little too much time on their hands and not enough “real-life” friends. This opinion is reinforced every time I pay my FB page a visit (I force myself about once a month), where I am inevitably faced with a post from a “friend” containing unwelcome political propaganda, religiously-toned philosophical nuggets, un-apologetic selling, and, of course, critical news about somebody’s pet cat doing “the cutest” back-flip off the step-ladder! FB is a massive unlimited buffet offering zero nutritional value.
I know that might sound like the musing of a 44-year-old dinosaur, so I’d like to emphasize my POV, that all passions are worth celebrating (as long as they don’t hurt anyone). If FB entertains you and adds joy to your life, then I say “get after it!” However, I will certainly exercise my right to spend my time elsewhere.
I’ve now read several publications (including those authored by McKinsey & Co. and IBM) that are definitive about the relationship between consumers and businesses, specifically as it relates to digital communication. The key conclusions of these documents validate NGF’s own research on the relationship between Core Golfers and technology.
Overwhelmingly, consumers (that’s you and me) would prefer that our favorite brands, retailers and yes, even golf courses, to contact us via email versus social media. Over 90% feel this way. Communities of like-minded people… in this case, golfers… enjoy communicating with each other via networks like FB and Twitter, but would prefer that product news/promotions/offers from businesses arrive to the inbox (opt-in only, of course).
Nothing suggests that businesses should ignore the social media space. It’s imperative that you craft a strategy that puts your company in the middle of the big conversation and offers something of value, information & entertainment relevant to the community and to the individuals comprising it. Universally, the suggested playbook for businesses is to allow your fans the opportunity to participate, to have a voice, to affect your company, to see your higher purpose… and to receive a tangible benefit.
I’ve been fortunate to spend some quality time with my 24-year old nephew over the past few years… and it seems clear that the cultural forces seem to be best-aligned with Twitter. Jake is an extremely bright Massachusetts native, currently completing his Master’s degree at one of the world’s top sports-science programs in England. He is extraordinarily active, athletic, over-subscribed and ambitious… and he gets the great majority of information and digital entertainment from… you guessed it: Twitter. Furthermore, it’s the definitive hub of both his personal and developing professional universe.
Having seen this, I came to the clear realization that my previous false-starts with Twitter needed to go further…all the way… and fast. Watching Jake use/enjoy Twitter (Paul Newman fans will appreciate his @CoolHandJakeGS “handle”) has been incredibly enlightening, and he’s helped me set up my own multi-account Twitter-verse with several great suggestions of people to follow. Perhaps it shows my analytical nature that these separate accounts are designed to compartmentalize my golf life:
- @NGF_Golfbizinfo for the mother ship
- @MayorOfCrazyTwn for my personal golf opinion and pursuit of the passion
Of course many of you in the golf world jumped on this train much further up the tracks… and I applaud you for it. It’s easy now to recognize that if golf is going to attract the next generation, we (as a traditional and old fashioned industry) must get more comfortable and welcomed in their world.
I’m happy to tell you that Jake really enjoys golf, and the game carries at least a measure of “cool” with his friends. It’s far from a priority in his life (nor should it be right now). However, I have no doubt that he will be a golfer in the future, though I suspect he is in a very small minority of people his age who have been exposed to the game, understand its virtues, and can visualize themselves playing as they go along life’s journey.
Golf may be under siege by screen time, but I fully expect that golf’s athletic challenge, exercise, time outdoors/away from technology, and the inherent real life social interactions will bring golf successfully into the future. The game will endure. After all, golf just may be the greatest community of all.
Cheers from the HMCT (aka Greg Nathan, NGF)