Changing the Game for a Vital Industry

  • Digital
  • Government Relations

Challenge

When the 2009 economic stimulus program excluded golf facilities from receiving federal aid and a string of political ads ran depicting golf as a shameful way for candidates to spend their time, several major players from across the golf industry, including the PGA of America, came to the Podesta Group to help them level the playing field for the industry and reduce a stigma that was leading to unfair treatment by federal lawmakers.

Strategy

At the suggestion of the Podesta Group, the We Are Golf coalition was formed. The goal was simple and urgent: eliminate a perception that did not square with the facts by telling the true story of golf – the two million working Americans whose jobs it supports and the millions more who benefit from its $69 billion in economic activity and the $3.9 billion in charitable contributions that golf generates each year.

Building on We Are Golf’s core message that golf is “more than just a game,” the Podesta Group went to work building an online presence and community that would help capture the broad benefits of the game and engage golf’s enthusiasts to speak directly to federal officials. We recruited and trained a diverse roster of story-tellers to speak directly to key members of Congress. And we showcase the sport’s impact on Capitol Hill by flying in not only industry and sport leaders, but workers from all aspects of the industry to provide compelling narrative to high level lawmakers via scheduled meetings and an attention-grabbing event as part of National Golf Day.

The Podesta Group turned to golf’s grassroots support, and executed an innovative Twitter campaign, keyed to National Golf Day events in 2012 and 2013 targeting key stakeholders on Capitol Hill. The #iamgolf campaign was launched with three simple goals: 1) enhance the experience of National Golf Day on Capitol Hill; 2) demonstrate the breadth and depth of golf’s support to members of Congress, their staff and the media; and 3) seed conversations among new and existing audiences about this important effort beyond the Capitol walls. And by engineering a compelling, high-yield conversation through strategic campaign messages and then selectively amplifying goal-advancing content and ensuring visibility, Podesta Group was able to do just that.

One of the keys to success would be pre-campaign diligence, i.e. structuring the conversation from the onset by ensuring that a critical volume of the campaign messages aligned to organizational goals. Also, using powerful data and consistent phrasing to raise the likelihood that tweets were noticed and shared helped build on-topic conversations that moved into the mainstream. Strategically pairing thematic re-tweetable messages and pre-authored tweets with key stakeholders across the different sectors of the industry for sharing with their own networks elevated relevance and resonance (and the volume) across different groups.

And finally, by a) reaching key congressional staff via a streaming Twitter board placed in a high traffic area on Capitol Hill, b) sharing hand-selected constituent tweets directly with Congressmen during in-person National Golf Day meetings, c) organizing tweets geographically on the web and displaying them on an interactive map showing broad appeal, and d) emailing legislator-specific tweets to staffers, alerting them to the volume of content of golf-supportive comments from their districts, ensured visibility of the best content among the very policymakers whose opinions the coalition was seeking to shape.

Results

The #iamgolf campaign succeeded in leveraging supporters to maximize influence and reinforce the message of We Are Golf as never before, attracting new champions and extending the online and offline value of external partners, as many participants continue to use the hashtag #iamgolf today.

The campaign successfully seeded the conversation with tweets that covered all of We Are Golf’s message pillars, with the vast majority of the tweets being crowd-generated or crowd-shared. And through an aggressive online strategy deployed primarily through social media and done without the help of advertising, the #iamgolf put up some big numbers for the industry.

Among the wins, the Podesta Group:

  • reached 13 million people online and, at its peak, 500,000 people in a half-hour span
  • prompted 20 supportive messages from members of Congress
  • seen by more than 5,000 congressional staff
  • activated professional golfers like Anika Sorenstam Natalie Gulbis, Sandra Gal, and Nyle Pruitt
  • generated excitement within the industry, including key players such as the PGA TOUR, LPGA, USGA, and countless more companies and friends of the industry, such as TaylorMade, Callaway, Ping, John Deere, and EA Sports
  • covered by top media personalities and organizations, including CNN commentator and host of Washington Watch Rolland Martin, CBS, Sports Illustrated, Golf Channel and Golf Digest
  • nominated for a SABRE award by The Holmes Report and featured as a best practice in social media inside the Beltway by National Journal


Thanks to Podesta Group’s efforts, We Are Golf changed the debate. Today, associating oneself with golf is no longer considered a political risk on Capitol Hill and bipartisan disaster relief tax legislation passed in the US House and Senate in the wake of Superstorm Sandy did not exclude golf. In short, golf is no longer a four-letter word.

Watch the video: https://vimeo.com/75533900