Where the European Solheim Cup Team went wrong. OR Lessons to learn about growing the game.

 

Sadly the European Solheim Cup Team was defeated at Des Moines Golf and Country Club. That’s a real shame for the ladies game in Europe, for the LET and most importantly for the great players in the team.

But the real loser this weekend is women’s golf.

The Solheim Cup could be described as the poor cousin of the Ryder Cup, but it is still one of the major golfing events in the women’s calendar. As such, surely it should be the poster child for growing the game?

I think this year’s event represents a huge lost opportunity for growing the game in this vastly under-represented customer sector of the market.

I make no apology for using words such as ‘market’ and ‘customer sector’ because this is all about marketing the game to new players, who represent additional incomes to clubs for green fees, food and beverage and memberships etc and additional revenue for the golf retail sector (pro-shops and off-course) with clothing and equipment sales, golf tourism and coaching.

In 2016, England Golf reported that 55% of golf clubs in the UK reported a decrease in Adult Female Membership. 38 % of golf clubs reported a decrease in Junior Girls. England Golf also reported that on average, there are fewer than 3 girls under the age of 16 playing at any club.

With figures like that, and there are many more negative stats that I could refer too, it’s somewhat surprising to see how lame the LET and the European Solheim Cup Team were in engaging with golfers and potential golfers.

  1. Facebook – simply regurgitating posts from the LET page will simply not do. Over the weekend the FB page was stuffed with video posts of single shots by various team members. Out of context they do not tell a story, they do not engage with followers and they do not encourage sharing with non-followers.
  2. Instagram – this is the social media platform of choice for anyone under the age of about 24. And yet, as of Monday evening after the event, the official Solheim Cup page on Instagram had just 36 posts. This is a totally bizarre scenario as the LET have actually published 502 fantastic images to their own website, in a photo gallery that is buried beneath an arcane navigation system. The pages of images are not even set up for good search engine optimisation, a very simple task seeing as how the website is built on the WordPress platfrom. Judging by the timeline this channel of social media was a relatively late addition and clearly poorly thought through. If they were struggling for content, then they could have started with a photo of each team member, as it was, there were none. How can you encourage fans to get behind the team if the team remain hidden from view?
  3. Twitter – sadly another missed opportunity. The official Twitter account appeared to be used as an outlet for the combined content from Facebook and Instagram. No original or unique content to speak off. If you are going to pursue an editorial strategy that is based on the reposting of others content, then why not at least repost content from the team members and other relevant channels?
  4. Website – out of date all the time. Even 24 hours after the tournament is over, the latest NEWS post talks about the state of play with 1 day left to play. Even sadder is the fact that this ‘malaise’ has spread to the advertisers, one of whom is still advertising tickets for the 2017 event. Why didn’t they update the ad to a more relevant message?
  5. Community Engagement – from what I can see there was none. If we look at how the big golf brands perform during the week of a major, social media is awash with competitions and little snippets of unique content about the players who represent those brands. This model is easy to copy and very cost-effective in getting to a wide reaching audience. I’m not aware of even 1 online competition to win merchandise or equipment etc during the week of the Solheim Cup.
  6. Mainstream Media – the only story that made an impact in the press during the run up to the opening shots on Friday was the news of the late withdrawal by Suzanne Pettersen. If it wasn’t for that bit of drama, the British public would have been entirely unaware of the event. What has gone wrong with the communications at the LET? Women’s football, cricket and rugby all now take precedence over the coverage of women’s golf.

None of these issues would take a lot of money or management time to resolve. So what’s going wrong and why? The LET needs all the exposure it can get, and the campaigns to get more women and girls in to golf needs more good news stories. Something is terribly amiss when an opportunity like the Solheim Cup seems to have slipped through the hands

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