Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Callaway Golf Driving Engagement

I’m always on the lookout for the latest on innovative ideas from sports brands.

A few weeks ago I came across the Callaway Golf website. Yes, it has things you’d typically expect like information on equipment and instruction, but take another look.

LPGA Tour pro Lydia Ko
and Harry Arnett. Photo courtesy
of Callaway Golf Company.
Callaway takes a different perspective. As Harry Arnett, SVP of Marketing, said, their marketing philosophy is “part newsroom, part morning show, and part agency.”

Their lineup consists of Callaway Radio (podcasts); Callaway Talks (videos); weekly wrap up videos; videos on new equipment, instruction, and tips; and The Backpage.

The Backpage is even more fun. It has quizzes from what style golf hat you should wear, to texts from pros, and videos of trick shots.

One recent video they shot is LPGA pro Lydia Ko hitting a ball down Lombard Street in San Francisco.

Recently I sat down with Harry Arnett to learn more about their strategy.

The history:
Harry: The company went from a mom and pop entrepreneurial start-up to the biggest golf company in the world…almost overnight. In the early 1990s Callaway introduced Big Bertha. This was the first product in golf that was used by everybody—from the best players on the pro tour to retirees in Palm Desert.

It was the first golf company to treat the brand with more marketing. In the 1990s golf was still a cottage industry. People working in golf were doing things the same way they always did. Callaway was the outsider. He brought different fundamentals (from business) to change the industry. And he built the biggest brand recognized all over the world. Celebrities started endorsing golf in the early- to mid-90s…Callaway was the first.

When Mr. Callaway passed away…it was the worst. The company lost its way, (yet) it was still
growing and had well-performing products. From 2008-2012 the business really declined—profitability more than top line. They lost focus on what type of company it was. The industry had changed in 2008 just as Callaway was starting to lose market share.

TaylorMade emerged and distinguished itself with product and marketing. In 2008 both companies
were the same size. However, by 2012, they were $300m apart in profitability.

Chip (Brewer), the CEO, hired me at the end of May 2012. Marketing needed to change…to think more about the consumer first. We wanted to create a communication/marketing model to match the way consumers were getting, transferring/sharing, engaging with information. We realized this had fundamentally changed.

We bet the marketing farm and created a new operating model. We think of ourselves and behave like a media company.

What they did:
Harry: Now, a lot of people say the word newsroom. I was inspired by the program Newsroom on
HBO. Having worked in radio we had to put on a topical show each day. I was thinking about story arcs with products, that could engage with consumers in a topical/real-time way. The show on HBO was fictionalized about a bunch of people creating a news hour every night.

But, how do we do this in our sport?

What about production value…how do we look at costs different…do we capitalize on in-house resources or outsource…where do we need speed and where don’t we need to be so fast? These are questions we asked ourselves. We turned everything on its head—quantity sometimes over quality.
We decided we couldn’t outsource storytelling…we couldn’t bring in an agency because they didn’t understand our story. We couldn’t be as fast as we wanted to be with an outside agency. So, we try to do as much as we can in-house.

We think of ourselves as a media company. For example, if the Food Network had a food brand, they
would market different than a packaged goods company would market it. It’s the human element, it’s organic…they would create a series around it, not commercials. So, we thought about the consumer experience different.

My office is different. It looks like SNL. All our shows are on a board…17 things up there. Two to
Harry and PGA Tour pro Patrick Reed.
Photo courtesy of Callaway Golf Company.
three years ago we’d typically script, for the storytellers to hit certain things. (Now we don’t) It takes practice to get comfortable, to capture the story arc and not specific words. It creates realism, timeliness, and approachability for Callaway, the brand.

For social media execution, we have an official Callaway account, but let consumers know individual accounts so they can connect with our people and talk about anything. So they can say…I have a guy at Callaway. It has helped build a loyal audience, organically.

While our followers may not be as big as Coke or Nike, we have a meaningful audience who feel like they have a direct connection with Callaway. So it’s a natural distribution channel.

How the brand has changed:
Harry: The brand went from old guys to young, fresh, fast engaging…almost overnight.

We’re seen as an innovation company. We have the brand we wanted: More aspirational, yet more accessible. No other brand can say this. We marry the two things together.

Just some of what they do:
Harry: Our biggest bucket of content is the episodic, serial pieces. They take more time and energy to produce with three or four people or more to create. This is where the rubber hits the road. These are the most differentiated in the brand. They include podcasts and Callaway Live.

Group selfie at the LPGA shoot on March 23.
Photo courtesy of Callaway Golf Company.
We do a podcast…we just did our 100th show where we interview employees and tour players.

Our talk show, Callaway Talks, has no script. We never edit. It’s always one take. It’s meant to feel organic.

The Backpage (on the website) is meant to be fun. It represents a look at exchanges of ideas with consumers. We’re not always doing the predictable things.

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Check out Callaway’s site at
Follow Callaway on Twitter at @CallawayGolf
Follow Harry Arnett on Twitter at @HarryArnettCG