The first impression was that retired WWE diva Trish Stratus was an odd choice to help launch a new Callaway Performance Centre, but Chris Walling, director of marketing for Callaway Golf Canada, countered that she was, in fact, the perfect spokesperson.
True to her athletic background, she had a long, fluid swing, but for whatever reason, Stratus initially had trouble connecting with the ball. Perhaps, it was all the beasts surrounding the beauty as she tried to figure it all out.
Barry Wallis, Callaway’s performance centre and golf education manager, stepped in to help eliminate the whiffs by the end of the short session in front of the media. To her credit, Stratus listened intently instead of dispensing one of her ‘Chick Kicks’ or ‘Stratusfaction,’ the finishing moves in her wrestling arsenal.
“He makes you feel like we’re in this together,” said Stratus of the instruction she received before and during this session. “I can say just after being fitted here, I feel comfortable. I feel confident. I’m in the club.”
According to Walling, that’s precisely the message that Callaway is trying to drive home, not only with the opening of the new Performance Centre, but with various other programs it has going on this year.
“Trish is a nice story in that she’s not an avid golfer. She’s a very beginner / recreational player, but you saw today that, in 10 swings, she went from not being able to hit the ball to hitting half-decent shots. There is a benefit to (fitting / instruction), regardless of the type of player who gets fit,” said Walling.
The relationship between Callaway and Stratus is not a formal one as it is with superstar Justin Timberlake, but Walling says having a celebrity who is iconic to a generation has two advantages, one being to draw new golfers to golf and, from a company standpoint, having the Callaway brand in the newcomers’ heads.
The message that Callaway is trying to deliver is the same one Stratus uses in her business at Stratusphere, a yoga studio just northwest of Toronto. Newcomers to that regimen are often intimidated and accessibility is often an issue with busy schedules due to work and family,
The opening of the fifth Callaway Performance Centre at DiamondBack Golf Club, a ClubLink Corporation facility near Richmond Hill, Ont., offers more convenience for golfers with it being the second in the Toronto area, to go along with others in Calgary, Vancouver and Montreal.
According to Walling, the DiamondBack facility further extends a company relationship with ClubLink and puts performance centres on different sides of the city with easy access to major highways.
“Essentially, when we talk to consumers, we don’t necessarily have to worry about a time based on how far they’re going to have to drive across the city. If they’re east or west end, we’ve got a solution,” said Walling.
With computerized analysis, high speed digital photography and certified Canadian PGA fitters available, the DiamondBack facility offers one-hour fitting sessions, custom specs, golf swing analysis pamphlet, swing videos and photos that can be e-mailed and a sleeve of golf balls and a Callaway cap.
A session is $60 and a portion of that will be donated to the Jennifer Ashleigh Children’s Charity for chronically and seriously ill children.
Walling says Callaway welcomes golf professionals and retailers out to see what the Performance Centres are trying to accomplish and to develop a relationship so they feel comfortable sending a client for a fitting.
“When a pro has sent a member to do that and they’ve seen that they’ll come back and they’ve had a great experience at the performance centre, the conversion is high in terms of purchase and instantly, that trust factor kicks in,” said Walling.
“It’s a relationship and it’s just furthering a mindset and a trust,” he added.
“We survey every single person that gets fitted at a performance centre before the fitting, ask them what they’re currently playing, how did they find out about us, where do they play golf? After the fitting, we ask did you purchase product as a result of the fitting?”
“Right now, about 84 per cent of people that come through a performance centre buy what they were fit for and the last number I saw, 63 per cent purchased something else other than what they were fit for – an accessory, a golf bag, a hat, a dozen balls – so the potential for add-on sales is huge.
“Anytime we can have a consumer touch and feel product, have somebody who represents our brand talking to them face to face, making them realize some of the things we do and genuinely try to make them a better golfer – which is what Mr. (company founder Ely) Callaway believed in from Day 1 – it helps.
“We’re going to continue looking at performance centres, tour fit vans and ways to get out into the marketplace and actually interact with golfers,” said Walling.
Callaway has expanded that attitude beyond its performance centres, recently rolling out two new tour fit vans, one each for Eastern and Western Canada, and it has increased its focus on demo days.
The company has also been involved in a Golf In Schools program in Ontario that, if rumours are correct, might be expanded nationally. You will also hear more soon about its Free Lessons Program that is worked in conjunction with the Canadian PGA.
Walling points out that the Free Lessons Program epitomizes his company’s attitude towards marketing these days.
“At the end of the day, that’s a win-win-win for everybody,” he said. “It’s a win for us because we get product into people’s hands.
“It’s a win for the consumer because they get the benefit of the product and they get the benefit of a lesson which I think there are a lot of consumers out there that don’t realize the benefit of fitting and of lessons from CPGA professionals,” he added.
“It’s great for the CPGA. They love the program because it puts new clientele and new people in front of them to come and see them as the authority and encourages them to go and get lessons.
“It’s been a very successful program and we’re running with it again this year as a core promotional platform.”
NEW GNN POLL: Golf courses are starting to open around the country and the new GNN Poll asks whether you think the weather or the economy will be the biggest issue for the golf industry in the first couple of months this season.
Personally, I think the weather is going to be the biggest influence. There is definitely exuberance out there this spring to get out and play after a long winter and all of the negative news about the economy. That makes a good spring critical in order to feed that positive attitude towards golf.
So, drop over to the GNN Poll to make your vote and, if you would like to expand on this issue, start a new topic in the GNN Forum.