Golf course advertising group Golf Ads, formerly Green Media, is celebrating its 20th anniversary. Michael Bratt spoke to the company’s founders Simon Turck and John Bayly to find out more.
Starting with one ball washer on one golf course, Golf Ads has grown its reach to 186 courses countrywide. The idea of formalising media offerings on golf courses came to Bayly while he was on the green. “It was during a game of golf with English cricketer Robin Smith at the Royal Cape Golf Club that the idea to create set media platforms on the green came about. He needed to wash his golf balls but there was nowhere to wash them. That got me thinking,” Bayly recalls.
The very first golf ball washer Golf Ads installed, which was geared for media use, was at the third hole on the Clovelly Golf Course. “The manager at the time, Jeremy Linquist, said he would be surprised if it lasted a month. Soon afterwards, I signed up MTN on 100 ball washers at 50 golf courses for a period of two years – that was the first major turning point for Golf Ads,” Bayly reminisces.
The appeal of golf course advertising
The success of the business can partly be credited to the nature of the advertising space that it is in. “We have the ability to reach 500 000 high net worth individuals in an environment that they love, with little clutter, with a dwell time that is unprecedented, at least six hours, with advertising and touchpoints that gives advertisers over 14 engagement opportunities throughout the golf experience,” says Turck. He adds that the advertising does not only reach golfers, but also golf estate homeowners, visitors to and guests of hotels at golf courses, and anyone who is just visiting for a drink at the club bar. “We are spreading our net in terms of not only golfers who see our media,” Turck comments.
Major clients help the business grow
Another contribution to the success of the business has been the big clients that the company has signed up to its portfolio over the years. “We had Nashua as a client for 13 years. They had a set contract with Golf Ads and they helped us grow from 50 to 150 golf courses,” says Bayly. “Another brand that is part of our success story is Mercedes Benz and Sandown Motors. They are one of the biggest dealerships in South Africa and we successfully provided them with an affluent audience with a propensity for luxury German vehicles.”
New product offerings brought with it new clients. When Golf Ads launched digital clock platforms almost four years ago a close relationship developed with TAG Heuer. Turck believes that this incorporation of digital into the business is one of the biggest accomplishments the company has seen in its 20 year existence. “Going digital, almost four years ago, set the framework for our recent launch of Golf TV… we are well positioned to capitalise on the growth of digital,” he says.
Whisky brand Bells’ ‘Give that man a Bells’ campaign also boosted Golf Ads’ business and product offerings as it was hosted across 150 golf courses on the company’s platforms. To accommodate the campaign, the company’s offering grew to include not only golf ball-washers, but clocks and mini-billboards situated in key areas of the golf course. “They used our offering primarily to drive brand awareness and sales, but the campaign was so innovative that it received a Roger Garlick award,” explains Bayly.
Partnering with an innovative player
In 2016, Golf Ads saw its business taken to the next level, when out of home player Provantage Media Group acquired a controlling share of the company. Bayly explains the benefit of this move. “CEO of Provantage Media Group Jacques du Preez has helped us bring world class innovation to the golf environment, with platforms that augment the golfing experience for all stakeholders – golfers, brands as well as the golf course.” The partnership with Provantage also led to another product offering being developed, Golf TV.
Golf Ads’ legacy so far
According to Bayly, Golf Ads has installed R4 million worth of products on 180 golf courses around the country, including courses in outlying areas such as Newcastle, where other media offerings for reaching this target audience are minimal. Over the years, the company has invested R10 million plus in South African golf clubs in the form of products which add value to both the club and players.
A bright future
Bayly believes Golf Ads is poised to build on the tremendous success of the past 20 years. “Our offering continues to get bigger and better, and we will continue to bring advertisers innovation, more opportunities for engagement and a progressively larger and wider audience. Here’s to the next 20 years!” When asked about the possibility of further international expansion of its offerings (Golf Ads already has offerings in the Mauritian market) Turck responds, “At a high level there are opportunities in international markets that we are exploring. We are very focused locally in South Africa, we’ve got a lot to do here and we just launched a lot of new products… We do have some interest from other territories, so a work in progress.”
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