Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Corporate Golf

Corporate Golf is a term coined for the group of people from corporate world playing Golf on a regular basis, either for fun or for business. They keep the Golf courses busy across the Globe wherever Golf is appreciated. Corporate firms are large organizations with influential decision makers, professionals, high profile personnel and Golf has always been associated with being elite and sophisticated. This is what makes Corporates and Golf go hand in hand. It will suffice to say that Corporate leaders have a great hand behind the growth of Golf worldwide, without them Golf would have remained only a recreational sport. But now it is an industry in itself. 

Golf has an attribute of elegance attached to it and is very popular among the corporates as it gives an opportunity for golfers to interact with each other while playing and it also helps in cracking some lucrative business deals. Golf is considered synonymous with business and probably every second Golfer is playing either to develop good rapport with his senior colleagues or to impress a golf-loving client. And what makes Golf reach the wider audience is that it can be played by people of all ages with differing abilities, a 25 years old young executive can play with his 60 years old High Net Worth Client and sometimes losing a game may be more beneficial than winning it!

Playing golf with friends or in a group helps in healthy exchange of information and communication. Many  strong and healthy business relations start on a Golf Course. The calm mind gives one the peace to communicate strongly and effectively without the stress of an official business setting. One can plan out the entire day's activity even as one is walking around the greens chasing the ball or thinking about the next shot. It teaches how to remain calm under pressure, control temper, think strategically and above all gives a nice and healthy walk on a lush green environment. What else does a corporate guy need? 

Generally, a lot of corporates organize Golf events for their clients and associates to build trust and rapport. A one or two day corporate Golf events are planned, specially managed by professional Golf event management companies, because it is not just about playing and interacting, it is about an experience which the organizers want to give to their invitees. A well-organized corporate golf event is very beneficial as it helps to distinguish your company from the rest and helps in building relationship with new clients and to reinforce the relationship with existing customers.

An event organized by one corporate is an opportunity for the other to participate and it’s a link, which keeps on growing. You play one event, you organize the other, that is how it keeps growing. And for those who are new to the sport, special clinics are organized to teach skills by a certified teaching professional. Apart from these events, a lot of corporate outings are planned as well, from team building initiatives to developing exclusive business leads, from thanking clients to company brainstorming, a corporate has all the reasons to get on to a Golf Course. 

Corporates want to make their clients feel privileged, from customers of a bank to luxury car owners to credit card holders, every corporate has a client to cater to. What best can be there for them than to be introduced to Golf. There are now a lot of operators in the business of corporate Golf tours both domestic and International. Operators from US, UK and Australia plan trips to South East Asia especially Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia and vice versa. Corporates are the key players to make Golf a multi-billion dollar industry. They help in sponsoring professional tournaments, corporate events and outings. They travel to various golfing destinations, buy most of the membership, buy equipment and merchandise, sponsor players, contribute to club revenues. 

You name it, they do it for Golf but the question is, why do they do so?

The simple answer is brand recognition and brand recall. This is how Golf pays back to the corporates. Golf sponsorship has become the leading form of corporate branding for companies to deliver awareness campaigns and open up additional markets for them to pursue clients and grow business. Corporates reach out to their target customers by way of international Live TV, print media campaigns, on course branding and signage. Besides associating with the sport is a prestige and honor in itself. The diverse demographics of the golfers make it easy for the corporates to sponsor CEOs to Entrepreneurs to Highly Educated Professionals to Decision makers to HNIs to aspiring middle class. These all are the perfect target customers for any corporate. 

To give you an example, what comes in mind whenever you see Tiger Woods playing? NIKE, isn't it? With time, things change, new players come on top and new sponsors come on board. But the fact is, it is difficult to separate Corporate from Golf, they both go hand in hand. I just need to name few corporates and you will start recalling their association with Golf: ROLEX, ADIDAS, HSBC, FEDEX, ACCENTURE, MERCEDES BENZ, AUDI, BMW, MASTER CARD, AMERICAN EXPRESS, OMEGA, SHELL and METLIFE. These corporates are not only there only for their own benefits but they do organize various charity, fundraising events and take various CSR initiatives to give back to the society. The raised money is given to the NGOs and other related organization working for underprivileged part of the society. 

As per IEG Research, the Worldwide spending on Golf sponsorship is expected to total $1.65 Billion mark by this year. Spending includes sponsorship of professional and amateur sanctioning bodies, tournaments, charity fundraisers, endorsement deals and corporate hospitality. BMW is the most active sponsor of Golf on the worldwide stage. Rolex follows in a close second with deals with 26 percent of properties. Alcoholic beverages and banks are the second and third most active categories, respectively. MasterCard International, Inc. is the most active sponsor in North America while banks are the most active category. 

Corporates play a major role in the development of the game and especially in developing countries like India and Africa where Golf is still in a nascent stage. Apart from just sponsoring events, I personally feel that the corporates should contribute in the development of new Golf learning facilities and infrastructure. Introduction of Golf in schools and colleges is very important. Golf can never grow unless it is taken to the masses. Golf has to become affordable and accessible to attract more customers, which would deliver a better ROI (Return on Investment) and would eventually ensure a strong and long term relationship between Corporates and Golf. 

This article is written by Aashish Vaishnava, CEO and Golf Course Designer at AV GOLF INTERNATIONAL