November 17, 2006
Case Study

How Video, Viral Tactics Built Email Leads for Golf-Club Manufacturer

SUMMARY: Everyone’s talking about all of the things you can do with online video -- and why not? Once production completes and the clips are on your site, it’s essentially a 24/7 downloadable TV commercial.

But the space is becoming more competitive, and marketers will have to find ways to cut through the video clutter sooner rather than later as the medium matures.

See how one golf-club manufacturer used original programming in a blog and in merchandising to build their email database from scratch. Campaigns and results data:

Avid golfers can often be found doing a handful of things, namely watching the pros on TV, pondering whether they could ever rise above the amateur level, learning more to enhance their game (you can take lessons online nowadays) and researching the latest equipment.

To get noticed in such a crowded field, innovation is key. “Our audience didn’t need another ad or publicity stunt,” says Rob Arluna, Director Brand Management for Odyssey Golf. “We were looking for new ways to build relationships.”

New relationships were needed because parent firm Callaway Golf stopped managing all of its brands -- Callaway, Odyssey, Top Flight and Hogan -- under the same roof in spring 2005. Every brand needed its own marketing plan.

Even though putter manufacturer Odyssey would have access to Callaway's database of hundreds of thousands of leads, one of the first things Arluna and his team needed to do was build their own house file. The corporate database was not segmented by brand, so they had to start completely anew.

Arluna decided it was not time to play it safe. So he designed a rich-media campaign with a touch of online reality TV to endear prospects and customers to the Odyssey brand. The campaign would be supported with product videos and a sweepstakes effort that would push viral.

Step #1. Real content courtesy of “The Grind”

Arluna and his team created a blog site called “The Grind,” which used video, photos and diaries to document the travails of golfers Craig Kanada, Ben Bates and Per-Ulrik Johansson on the “minor league” Nationwide Tour.

Just wrapping up the season on Nov. 12, the three were part of a vast field of players trying to finish in the top 20 on the tour’s money list, a distinction that would earn them a PGA Tour Card. (One of them qualified. More on that later …)

The Grind, which launched in July, was updated daily to encourage repeat traffic. One standout feature was the “Grind Guy” journal, the voice of a character/reporter following the three players through airports, restaurants and hotels.

“We felt like the content would be much richer if we had someone out there talking to them and having dinner with them,” Arluna says. “When we first started to conceptualize it, the [campaign] was going to be very basic, journal-oriented. But the more we thought about it, the more video became a much bigger part of the equation.”

Subsequently, dozens of video clips of the players being interviewed by the Grind Guy were added. Viewers also emailed questions to individual players about golf tips. The players regularly answered these in written form, but they also videotaped answers to be turned into downloadable blog clips.

“I don’t think people necessarily even expect a written response,” Arluna says. “So, when they got a video response from the players, it had to be a very exciting thing.”

The only mention of the brand throughout The Grind site were the words “Presented to you by Odyssey #1 Putter In Golf” in the upper-right-hand corner. The motive behind the relatively soft sell was to create an authentic community of hardcore golfers. The players used the Odyssey putters and wore the brand’s apparel throughout the tour, while also getting an undisclosed-but-modest compensation for participating.

“We told the players: ‘If you have a bad putting day or are having problems with your putter, we want to hear about that stuff.’ The only way people were going to get behind this effort was if they felt like they are hearing from the players and not the sponsor,” Arluna says.

The signup page required first and last name and email address. An optional question asked what putter the golfer used.

Step #2. Product & tips video

Odyssey recently added video for their most recent line of putters -- Dual Force 2, White Hot XG, SRT and White Steel. The one-minute clips highlight the technical aspects particular to each product.

Arluna’s team also debuted nine putting tips videos that lasted around 1 1/2 minutes each. The script to the clips, which show viewers such tactics as putting grips and how to putt uphill, was available for those who would rather read the instruction or print it out. “We converted a lot of text we were already using into the video.”

Step #3. Translate sweeps into viral

Signing a sponsorship deal with fan-favorite PGA golfer Phil Mickelson (affectionately known as “Lefty”) was a no-brainer for Odyssey earlier this year. But what Arluna and his team were able to do with the opportunity online was noteworthy.

Well before millions of international TV viewers watched Mickelson use a custom-made Odyssey-branded putter to win The Masters tournament in April, they were planning a “Win Lefty's Putter” promo to further build the email list. Three replicas of the unusually-designed “flat-stick” putter were made for the giveaway.

But this wasn’t just another sweepstakes initiative because Arluna also designed the opportunity to go viral. Online golf communities like (30,000 registered members) were targeted with mentions of the “Win Lefty's Putter” during online chats with Rob and others from the Odyssey team to build a buzz leading to the announcement of the winners in July.

This effort followed a sweeps promo a year earlier on The Golf Channel's daily primetime 'Golf Central' news program, which gave away a putter each day in April 2005. At the end of the month, a grand prize was offered.
While Arluna couldn’t tie the video and viral efforts to in-store sales of retail partners, the campaigns definitely added to a strong revenue year for Odyssey Golf. He was particularly happy with the work done on The Grind.

“An editor for one of the major golf magazines said it was one of the most innovative marketing ideas he's seen in the industry,” he says. “We plan on doing even more with The Grind in 2007.”

Some of Arluna’s results were data-oriented, while others were anecdotal, if not fun. For instance, Craig Kanada earned his PGA card by chipping out of a bunker on the last two holes of the year to move him from the 32nd slot to 11th on the Nationwide Tour money list.

After issuing a press release and emailing it to various online publications and communities, traffic at The Grind blog was up by 10 times compared to the prior two-week period.

Statistically, they saw an 11.5% lift in email signups due to The Grind. Page views lasted 5.5 minutes, a minute higher than the average at Odyssey’s main Web site. “For a putter brand, that’s a pretty substantial amount of time,” Arluna says.

The viral effort in the Mickelson sweepstakes helped increase Odyssey’s email list by 27%. In August, the company released a version of the Mickelson custom putter to retail outlets, selling 4.5% more than forecasted.

With The Golf Channel promotion, "we went from zero to 55,000 names and email address of people who were avid golfers," Arluna says. "The nice thing about The Golf Channel viewers and people who are on their Web site is that they are really [hard-core] golfers. They are not just 'sweepers' trying to get in on the prizes. They are going to have a very keen interest in what Odyssey's products can do for their game."

All together, these efforts increased their lead generation email database by 38.5%. Also, they doubled unique visitor statistics, and time-spent-per-visit jumped by more than 20% across the site.

Note: Rob Arluna spoke at November's ad:tech conference in New York. For more information about the show, visit

Useful links related to this article

Creative Samples From Odyssey Golf:

Odyssey's agency of record - Matthews Evans Albertazzi (MEA Digital)

The Grind:

Player videos:

Product videos:

Golf tips site:

Odyssey Golf:

Callaway Golf:

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