ShareLikeBuy 2015 is quickly approaching and we are getting excited to bring together some of the best and brightest when it comes to Marketing to Millennials™. In an age where millennials do not align with traditional schemas, many brands are feeling the pressure to rethink their messaging and engagement strategy for younger consumers. Golf as a sport has suffered from a drastic decrease in millennial participation. However, Topgolf is a newer, Millennial-friendly innovation that is taking the industry by storm and aligning with the physical and social culture some millennial golfers want but can not get from traditional golf experiences. Ken May, CEO of Topgolf, will share his experience about reimagining one of the most traditional games in the U.S. and how to re-engage a new generation of fans. Here are some of the highlights from our conversation earlier this week.
AVP: How has the sports and entertainment industry changed over the past 20 years?
KM: Today’s most successful sports and entertainment brands foster experiences in which the fans aren’t just spectators – they are participants. It’s no longer enough to “put on a good show;” brands need to make the audience feel as though they are part of the action. Engaging fans in personal, innovative and surprising new ways – both inside and outside the venue – is critical to building a devoted army of brand ambassadors.
AVP: How are millennials approaching the sports and entertainment industry differently?
KM: Millennials no longer go to ball games just to watch their favorite players or go to Topgolf just to play golf. Now, people are motivated to document their outing and share that moment on social media with friends and family. In other words, the fans have become the advertisers carrying your brand’s message. Millennials are also more discerning now about which brands they identify themselves with – they see right through fake, forced and cheesy marketing ploys. A successful campaign aimed at millennials needs to be authentic and native to their experience.
AVP: What has Topgolf done to leverage these differences?
KM: The Topgolf vision is to create a global sports entertainment community creating the best times of your life. We do this by delivering “wow” experiences and picturesque backdrops that our guests want to share. The word “community” is also very meaningful to us – we want to connect our fans with each other through competition, community events, social media and more.
AVP: Do you see a marriage between tradition and new-school ideals taking place across other sports? In other words, do you see other sports adopting the Topgolf strategy?
KM: There are remarkable examples of fan engagement across many different brands and sports. The San Francisco Giants social media café allows fans to follow and participate in social chatter in real time. With all of the thrilling extreme sports events it hosts, Red Bull (a Topgolf partner) has become as much a sports and entertainment brand as it is an energy drink. Golf Digest is another example. It pivoted the focus on golf as just a sport to golf as a lifestyle through dynamic content and strategic partnership activations (like with the demo tours at Topgolf!). These are just some of the tactics that Golf Digest has used to help bring the magazine to life for its readers.
AVP: How would you describe your vision for the future of sports and entertainment? Do you see technology continuing to play a major role?
KM: Technology is here to stay, and it presents as much an opportunity as it does a challenge. Brands will need to find the right balance of leveraging technology to engage fans without distracting from the original experience in its most pure and simple form. Although millennials have embraced technology at an unprecedented rate, we are also seeing how much nostalgia resonates with this demographic. Millennials want to enjoy experiences the way they used to and the way their parents used to. It will be interesting to see the dichotomy of technology and nostalgia play out in the future.