Larry Bain spent the last few years selling golf courses. Not the actual turf, but rather selling the idea of golf courses as an ad medium. The company he leads, ProLink Solutions, sells the equipment to outfit golf carts with screens and global positioning systems to deliver real-time golf tips, hole layout and advertising.
Not such a 'yawn'
“When I first started pitching agencies and companies, they thought, for example, Dallas – with three golf courses and 100,000 golfers a year – was a yawn. But now we have 20 courses in Dallas and 600,000 golfers, with an advertising average of three million impressions,” he said.
And worldwide, ProLink operates systems in more than 700 golf courses globally. (About 8 per cent of golf courses in the world have GPS golf-cart screens, and ProLink owns about 65 per cent.)
Each ad – in three consecutive formats – stays onscreen for 15-20 minutes, or about the length of time it takes to play one hole. ProLink sells ads on a per-hole basis. The average 150,000 annual ad impressions (30,000 rounds of golf with golfers in and out of the car about five times) can be purchased for $5,000 – that's one hole on one course for the entire year. ProLink has national ad salespeople in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, as well as local sales people in offices in Baltimore; Dallas; Denver; Phoenix; Houston; and Orlando, Fla.
'Male, rich and ready'
And while there is plenty of on-site pro shop and local business advertising, ProLink has also begun to attract big marketers looking to reach the target Bain refers to as “male, rich and ready”. HBO and Cadillac each began with small trials and then converted those to larger national efforts. Initial recall results are promising with a post-golf poll for Cadillac showing that 42 per cent of golfers noticed the ad, and more than half (54 per cent) remembered specifically that the ad was for Cadillac.
There is no sound with the ads (too disruptive to the quiet concentration atmosphere) and no video (golfers might get too absorbed “watching TV” and slow down the pace of the game). However, Bain said he could envision a few possibilities for sound and video in the future, such as using audio before play as the cart is being driven to the first hole, or in “silent” videos showcasing, say, a dripping glass of beer.
And even the static ads can be interactive. ProLink is conducting a 10-course test ad in California for a large energy-drink provider in which the cool beverage appears on screen with the option to order it and have it delivered right to the cart from the snack shack on course (ProLink coordinated the availability of the beverage in the shops in test).