After drifting from golf, Izod attracted to sport’s younger face
Editor's note: This story is revised from the print edition.
Golf has seldom been described as a marketing tool to reach a younger audience, but with more and more colorfully dressed 20-something golfers becoming the face of the PGA Tour, Izod has noticed.
The brand, whose theme is “Izod is color,” jumped back into golf with three player deals at the start of the year, most notably one with U.S. Open champ Webb Simpson. This week, Izod will make its biggest splash in golf with a full slate of hospitality and marketing initiatives at the Masters, where it “will take Augusta by storm,” said Mike Kelly, executive vice president of marketing for Izod parent company Phillips-Van Heusen.
“We’re trying to take the golf world back,” Kelly said. “Golf has always been in Izod’s DNA, and we used to be deeper in the sport with Retief Goosen years ago. But golf got a little old and the numbers were falling off,” so Izod looked other places to access the 18- to 34-year-old consumer.
|In its effort to “take Augusta by storm,” Izod will have its branding on the Pinnacle hospitality building, shown in renderings.
Izod also has agreed to partner with Maxim on a Wednesday night industry party in a rented house that will be the primary location for Izod and Maxim hospitality throughout the week. The site is being called the Maxim Clubhouse presented by Izod. A sweepstakes is rewarding winners with invitations to the party.
The 2,500-square-foot property on Azalea Drive, just across the street from the entrance to Augusta National, will also be the site for what Izod is calling its social media hub, where bloggers and journalists will be filing stories throughout the week. PGATour.com social media team members and reporters, the golf writer from SB Nation, radio shows and other bloggers will be working from and referencing the Izod social media studio throughout the week.
Kelly said the social media outreach will give Izod a stronger voice with the younger readers and fan base. Matter and Edelman Digital are working with Izod on its social media strategy.
But marketers are still waiting to see if golf’s youth movement and more of a presence on social media will generate more Gen Y and Gen X fans.
“With the economy coming back, we’ve seen insurance, financial institutions, a lot of Fortune 500 companies coming back in a big way,” said Jon Wagner, a longtime marketer for IMG Golf who now runs his own shop in Cleveland, Milestone Sports Management, and represents Capital One. “Certainly golfers like Keegan [Bradley] and Rickie [Fowler] have gotten people’s attention, but for people in their 20s, golf is still a fringe sport and an expensive sport. Has golf gotten a little cooler? Yes. But I wouldn’t say it’s attracting more new kids to the game than it did in the past.”
But at least golf is attracting a mainstream, big brand like Izod, said Barry Hyde, a golf marketing veteran at Wasserman Media Group and a former chief marketer at the U.S. Golf Association.
“We can’t always be limited to financial firms and car companies,” Hyde said.
The brand’s Team Izod advertising has been heavy on NBC/Golf Channel, with its print advertising running in Golf Digest, Maxim, Men’s Health and GQ.
“We’re trying to get the point across that this is not your dad’s Izod,” Kelly said. “We’re trying to bring a younger, fresher take, and social media is one of the ways you reach [the younger consumer]. The line of golf apparel has already been very well-received by our retail partners. Now, this is our coming-out party, really, for the industry at the Masters.”
Kelly said the Maxim Clubhouse deal was part of a large ad buy with the magazine.
“This is our first, big on-the-ground activation,” he said.
Because Masters advertising on CBS is limited to just three primary sponsors — AT&T, Exxon Mobil and IBM — brands have developed ways to activate away from the golf course in Augusta. Berckmans Place is the Masters’ primary hospitality option on-site, but the $6,000 weekly passes have been sold out essentially since the facility opened two years ago.
It’s not uncommon to see brands renting space up and down Washington Road in order to catch the eyes of the passers-by.
“This kind of off-site activation at Augusta has become prolific,” said Hyde, who has missed just one Masters since 1991. “There are two simple reasons. It is the mecca for the golf world. You’ve got to have some type of presence in Augusta, for credibility sake. You combine that with the fact that there are very few opportunities on-site, and those off-site activations become more and more important. That’s always been the case to a degree, but it’s gotten much louder in the last several years.”
Izod spent much of the last five years title sponsoring the IndyCar Series. The Izod Center in the Meadowlands continues to carry the company's name even though the naming-rights deal has expired.
Golf was absent for much of that time, until it struck a deal with Simpson late last fall. Simpson surprised many in the industry by leaving Ralph Lauren to go to Izod, a brand with much less equity in the sport. Industry insiders say Izod outbid Ralph Lauren with a $750,000-a-year offer, compared with Ralph Lauren’s $500,000 bid, and Simpson went with the newcomer to golf.
Piercy and Levin were added shortly thereafter — the value of their deals was not available, although it wouldn’t have compared to Simpson’s. Those deals gave Izod a stable of three tour players to market against this year.
“As we’ve refined what we’re trying to do with the brand, lo and behold, golf got hot,” Kelly said. “Look at the colors being worn, the age of the golfers. We decided to dive back in with a really aggressive plan.”