As companies seek to associate their brands with success, there is certainly a place for the bright, shiny marketing tool known as tour validation that is used to capture the attention of those mesmerized by the glare of the biggest names in golf.
The most important impact of tour validation, however, comes at the grassroots, where sales are made from golfers with considerably less profile than the tour players who represent their respective brands.
“What works on tour doesn’t necessarily work in the hands of the average player, that’s for sure,” said Ted Webster of Ted & Dave Custom Golf in the Golf Canada Calgary Centre.
“Those players have a different skill set, so what they use and how their clubs are set up is probably quite different than what the average person should be doing,” he added.
Norm Jackson of the Cowichan Golf and Country Club on Vancouver Island agrees.
“As a fitter, I think sometimes when people come to try golf clubs and they’re saying, `Well, you know, I saw whatever is the No. 1 driver on tour,’ and you get them hitting balls and all of a sudden, they realize, `Whoa, this is a whole different kettle of fish,’” said Jackson.
The select few who are used to send a message to the masses of golfers can provide good news stories for the companies they represent.
If, for example, Bubba Watson successfully defends at the Masters in a few weeks, a lot of focus from the tour validation crowd will be on his unique, pink PING G30 driver. That would be good news for PING and the people who sell the G30 and other company products.
The most important factor, however, for the company and at the grassroots where Webster and Jackson operate is how the public reacts to the product.
That story is already being written, according to recent numbers from Golf Datatech that say for six months, August through January, the G30 driver was No. 1 among consumers, registering first in dollars, with 15.25 per cent of what’s spent on drivers going to the G30, and volume as 10.41 per cent of drivers sold over the six months were G30s.
In addition, G30 irons were No. 1 in sell-through in dollars (7.18 per cent), while the G30 hybrids were also first (11.01 per cent). The G30 fairway woods ranked No. 2 (10.33 per cent) in that category.
“It pretty much mirrors what’s happening here in our shop, for sure,” said Webster.
So, it comes as no surprise to people who see past the glare of ever-revolving tour winners and the brands they represent and see their own results and the response from consumers.
“I think that’s what PING has done so well,” said Jackson.
“Sure, obviously they have some players that are great ambassadors to their brand, but at the end of the day, it’s what the public is buying and what they’re feedback is – they’re buying it because it’s a product that withstands the test of time,” he added.
“I would say that brand loyalty is a bigger issue than tour validation. I’m not going to discount it. It’s important,” he said.
“As far as any brand is concerned, having your name there on Sunday afternoon, that’s got to be positive,” added Webster.
“Having big name players like Bubba Watson or Angel Cabrera or Lee Westwood perform well, it’s certainly great for the brand, there’s no doubt about that, but it’s a one-trick pony. You look more for bringing the people back if the clubs perform,” he said.
That’s the reason for PING’s focus on product and fitting, according to Jackson.
“There’s a huge credibility with the (conservative nature) of how they advertise. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a good player or a novice at the game. It will help your game,” said Jackson.
That’s what counts for people on both sides of the retail counter, says Webster.
“If you’re in a pro shop, you want people to come back. You’re the face. Your fitting and your service, regardless of the brand you’re using, is what people remember. You fit them properly, they’re going to like you and the brand,” he said.
“It hasn’t been a marketing story. As long as I’ve fit PING clubs, it’s been a fitting story,” he said.