Advertisers, broadcasters and fans worldwide are expecting more sporting drama from the showdown at Gleneagles following the nail-biting conclusions of the 2012 and 2010 events. Dubbed golf’s world cup, the biennial clash between Europe and America has evolved from the major golf tournament into a major fixture on the sporting calendar.
For marketers seeking marquee events to elevate their brands, the tournament’s transformation presents an untapped well of potential new fans who perhaps only tune in to the occasional major golf event. It translates into a stronger advertising return-on-investment when compared to costlier properties such as Formula One and the Olympics.
The good value is part of the reason Johnnie Walker has returned as a headline sponsor for the European team, 17 years since its last major Ryder Cup activation. In a marked shift from its previous golf campaigns, the Scotch whisky has poured its budget into social media, video, live events, PR and more to introduce the brand to more casual sports fans.
A “Johnnie Walker Experience” mini golf course has been set up close to the Gleneagles course. Attendees experience the story of how the whiskies of John Walker and Sons travelled from Scotland to the rest of the world, spanning sampling sessions and brand ambassadors.
Meanwhile, Johnnie Walker will be attempting to complete an ambitious plan to get 25,000 people to “Join the Pact” this weekend by asking them to make a commitment to never drink and drive. Brand owner Diageo plans to reach 5 million pledges over the next four years with the brand promising to fund safe rides home from pubs and clubs around the world.
Guy Escolme, global brand director for Johnnie Walker, says: “No longer will we see the Johnnie Walker brand used as part of a traditional sponsorship exercise or straightforward awareness building effort. Instead we’re working toward a more layered, integrated media plan. For us, the goal is to attain the reach and saliency that reflect the global footprint of the brand.”
Yet the flurry of content from advertisers and broadcasters alike could make it difficult for any one brand to stand out over the Ryder Cup’s three-day window.
Jon Stainer, managing director of Repucom UK and Ireland, says: “We’re coming off a big year in Scotland following the Commonwealth Games and there’s a fresher look to the European and American teams than previous years. These throw up good touchpoints for fan engagement and combined with strong marketing from the organisers to drive buzz, have created a platform that could see many brands look to join the conversation over the next few days.”
It is why HP has opted for a more targeted approach in partnership with The Guardian. The electronics maker is going after the newspaper’s C-suite audience by sponsoring its coverage of the event, including branded content, social media and an interactive course map. HP’ hopes to convey a “new style of IT”, its B2B marketing platform that puts its products at the heart of a workplace affected by mobile, cloud computing and big data.
More than 500 million people are expected to watch the event worldwide, buoyed in part by what broadcasters say is a rise of casual sports fans watching live major sports events together. The surge has spurred Sky in the UK and NBC in the US to cram as much content around the tournament as possible.
Sky has set up a dedicated Ryder Cup channel that will show 36 hours of live coverage over the weekend in what will serve as a test for an ultra high-definition technology called 4K. The broadcaster says there will be more programming around the matches than ever before such as a three hour highlights show from the course each night.
While the Ryder Cup has steadily thrown up memorable moments over the years, marketers are waking to the notion that it is not just golf fans interested in experiencing the clinical putts and woeful bogies anymore.
Non-more so than Sky, which has scrapped its usual “orchestral”, classical-themed ads in favour of creative it claims “brings the noise”. The ad (see above) uses a remixed sample of Public Enemy’s ‘Bring the Noise over shots of players and spectators celebrating defining moments from previous cups.
A spokesman for the media owner says: “The ‘Bring the Noise’ [strapline] sums up the Public Enemy tone we wanted to instil in our promotion of the event. It’s about capturing that excitement in way that draws in those event junkies who maybe watches one or two big boxing matches a year or our football viewers.”
With sports rights fees continuing to rise, the Ryder Cup is poised to benefit from a commercial windfall in the coming years, becoming more of a platform for integrated cross-border campaigns.