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E-Marketing Members and Sponsors

Tom Pasha

Back when Old Tom Morris was bashing a gutta percha ball through the gorse, swamps and heather that, because it was unfit for cattle grazing,  was dedicated to a game called golfe, the idea of simultaneous satellite scoring, on-line handicap calculation and international sponsorships for tournament was eons away.

And, for many planners, approaching modern technology as a way to increase attendance, membership and sponsorship borders on science fiction as well.  Event planners currently fall into two groups:  computer-savvy Byte Bashers who can field-strip, clean and reassemble a laptop, or terminally-afflicted techno-phobes who view computers with the deep dislike and distrust usually reserved for 12-foot par putts..

Like many topics, the best approach for a golf event planner is somewhere in the middle—have enough computer knowledge to get your work done, but remember that our primary work is to promote our tournaments, fill our tee-sheets and maximize our sponsorships.

Last issue, we covered E-Marketing Essentials — Websites and E-mail marketing.  Now that you’ve got the basics covered, we’ll discuss how to increase membership and attendance by a series of specific steps leading up to a tournament.  E-marketing is designed to reinforce the message you are spreading in websites, direct mail, fax-reminders, personal phone calls and other ways to communicate with golfers and sponsors.

The Strategy of a tournament is the overall structure and decision process to use a tournament as a  fundraiser;  to be successful, the planners uses some of the many operational Tactics that follow--  these are the specific actions needed to fill the tee-sheets and sponsor commitment forms that is the goal of the tournament.

Determine the date for the tournament— Avoid holidays, and holydays, usually Thursdays or Fridays are good, but if you’d like to save some money, Monday afternoons are the best time to ask for special pricing from the course.  Once you set the tournament date, your scheduling works backwards from there, to increase attendance and sponsorship.  For a tournament of 100 golfers, try to work no more or less than 6 months prior:

Design and host a tournament website.   The tournament website has become the most important step to filling a tournament.  Include a guest book, a sign-up area, facts about the course and the tournament, information on the charity, all plainly and clearly spelled out.  Go to www.hostica.com, for inexpensive hosting and some good basic templates for the website.   It doesn’t have to be expensive or elaborate, but golfers and corporations expect it, as soon as the tournament date is set.  Every promotional e-mail, direct-mail, notice, PR release and announcement, should have a prominent mention of the website.  Every sponsor should be asked to have the tournament website linked on their respective websites as well, especially for a charity event.

Once the website is designed, start your promotional schedule six months prior, as follows:

  • Call and write all sponsors as soon as the date is set.  Sell three levels of sponsorship— offer anyone who was on the lower levels to upgrade to the next level at a reasonable price.
  • Send a “Save the Date” e-mail to all golfers from the prior year.
  • Ask the club pro if you can e-mail a note to his members—sometimes the pro issues a newsletter or an e-zine that would be a perfect marketing vehicle for your tournament.
  • Send a “Member, Bring a Member” to all current golfers, encouraging your past golfers to bring a friend to play.  Award a Head-hunter prize for the most additional golfers brought by an individual..
  • As sponsors and golfers sign-up for the tournament, release partial lists of their names to sponsors and golfers who have not signed up.
  • Within two months prior to the tournament, send a “Last Call” e-mail, getting last-minute sign-ups;
  • Within two weeks of the tournament date, send out a Waiting List reminder to anyone who has not signed up for the tournament.

With the countdown e-mail communication underway, be sure to use plain text e-mails, with no attachments, and use Outlook or Outlook Express.  With apologies to the other programs, these are universally accepted by every computer, and if you avoid attachments and large graphics, they will be opened by everyone who receives them.

When you are sending out e-mail promoting a tournament, be sure to add a Telephone number, preferably a toll-free number, a fax number for those who still use a fax machine, and a dedicated e-mail address.  If possible, use the name of the non-profit in the e-mail address, such as  “golf@ABCcharity.com,” to increase participation and improve tracking of your results.

Bear in mind that e-marketing complements, but does not replace other forms of communication to members and sponsors.  The most important feature here is to make sure that every ad, brochure, e-mail or poster looks like the others, so every golfer knows what event you are promoting.  Avoid the canned graphics that came in your computer—they are overused, and can actually hurt your response.  Make sure you have a clear, clean and distinctive logo, referencing the event or the charity.

Each promotional and sponsorship solicitation e-mail that is sent should have a simultaneous entry into the other promotional media.  Some of these might include:

  • Church bulletins, promoting the charity and the tournament
  • Area news and sports personalities, invited to the tournament;
  • Faxes broadcasted to past golfers, who may not be connected to a computer;
  • Social groups—men’s clubs, women’s clubs, families and friends of the charity;
  • Home Owners Associations for the course, if it is built in a residential area;
  • Develop a corporate challenge if there are two competing companies in the same industry in your town.   These can be fun and very effective for both players and sponsors.
  • Look up associations and social service groups locally, you may be able to promote your tournament through their membership as well.

To increase quick response, include a way for the sponsors and attendees to register via telephone, fax, or on-line and pay their sponsorship with a corporate credit card.  Be sure to have easy access to sign-up information on everypage of the tournament and organization website—make it easy for people to sign up, and they will!

If you are working with a non-profit group, be sure to have the Tax Identification available for everyone making a pledge to play or sponsor the event.  Be sure to mention that in the website, and in all promotional mail and e-mail.

As soon as a registration is received, send out an e-confirmation, thanking the golfer or sponsor for their participation.  When someone signs up for a tournament, introduce them to your own version of the “Member-Guest:” by asking them whether they have a friend or business associate they can recommend that you contact for an additional golfer or sponsor.

E-Marketing for a specific event will help increase your results for a tournament, but it must be accompanied by a telephone call soliciting the golfer or sponsor, and thanking them for their help.  As things become more technologically advanced, it’s clear that the tournaments that have the best results are the one that combine technology with the personal touch.

And at your next tournament, as you slog through the gorse, swamps and heather, looking for your logo’d Titleist Pro V1x ,  just think how Old Tom Morris would be proud to be a part of it all… 

Tom Pasha is the Executive Director of GEMA, the Golf Event Managers Association. GEMA is a national organization of golf event planners, golf facilities and vendors, dedicated to increasing and improving golf tournament business, attendance and professionalism on all levels. Based in Orlando, Florida, GEMA focuses on marketing programs to help event planners maximize membership, attendance and sponsorships and works with golf facilities and merchandisers to increase their contacts and business in the tournament golf market

Tel: 407-891-2252 | Fax: 407-891-6428 | E-mail: tpasha@contactplan.com | www.contactplan.com

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