A common thread seemed to weave between the headlines of the day on Thursday:
- Rogers Communications is reportedly in talks to acquire control of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, effectively giving Rogers a monopoly on Toronto sports teams, including the Toronto Maple Leafs, Marlies, Raptors, Toronto FC soccer club. Rogers already own the Toronto Blue Jays.
- Also in Toronto, gas went up over four cents per litre overnight, with predictions that we’ll be paying $1.20 by Christmas.
- Tiger Woods continues his image rebuilding through Twitter and a series of heartfelt interviews.
Here are common reactions that I hear in response to each story.
- About the Rogers story, it’s just one corporation taking over from another, meaning that nothing will change, particularly with the Maple Leafs who haven’t won the Stanley Cup since 1967 yet remain the most valuable franchise in the NHL. The Leafs and the other components of MLSE are a profit playground for whoever owns them despite inferior products.
- As for the jacked-up gas prices, Happy Holidays profit-takers. You must need a new Armani suit to look good this festive season.
- Tiger isn’t just rebuilding his reputation after the sex scandal that rocked his life a year ago. He’s also on a PR campaign for the corporation he became when he was mostly known as a golfer.
Whether those assumptions are entirely true can be debated between corporations and consumers forever, but the fact is that consumers feel they have nobody to argue with as the price at the pumps and their cable bills keep rising.
PR releases are nothing but blah-blah-blah and why take your concerns to a customer service department when nothing will change anyway? That is the perception for consumers and therefore reality, so corporate fatigue is setting in with contempt on the upswing for faceless businesses that constantly seem to be reaching into their wallets.
The Leafs get away with it from the decades of loyalty built up over several generations and the gas giants can pull it off because of the necessity for their product. Whether Tiger can pull it off remains to be seen, but at least people are willing to listen because of what he once meant to golf fans.
With stagnant or even declining participation rates, golf at the grassroots level doesn’t have the luxury of being able to jack up rates whenever it feels necessary or to be a faceless facility where all that matters is the transactions that take place through its various operations.
To generalize the game as being that is perhaps unfair with the number of friendly mom and pop operations out there and the people who work to create new programs and make golf an enjoyable experience.
However, golf is seen by many to be a game that isn’t affordable, partly because of the number of high end facilities that opened up in certain parts of the country and saturated those markets with courses that demanded high green fees.
The fact that many of those facilities are now hurting due to the economic downturn or oversupply or a combination of both means little to a public that is looking for deals though coupon books or third party distributors.
As mentioned above, generalizations are not always fair and the consumer who doesn’t deal with golf course matters on a day-to-day basis doesn’t understand the effects of taxes and overhead as it relates to pricing.
Golf course conditioning, at least compared to what we’ve become used to over the past 15 years or so, could also become an issue in order to cut back on costs, so communication with clients and members becomes increasingly important.
In an era when golf is consider overpriced, the last thing that golf facilities need is to be seen as faceless and unapproachable and that’s where the game needs to go old school. With all of the talk that goes on about new programs and new ideas, the game once thrived on the personality of its people.
While that is still often the case, the business of golf has changed immensely over the years with its people taking on multiple responsibilities, so that makes it even more difficult to get out into the public or even take a few hours to play a round of golf with members/clients, even if it’s only nine holes.
A conscious effort needs to be made and perhaps devoting a few hours per week at night or early morning could make a difference. It isn’t the complete answer to the challenges ahead for the game, but putting a face and a personality to your facility will at least let golfers know that their concerns are being heard.