The LPGA has undergone a major makeover in the last few years, after a period of poor marketing, low TV coverage (and nothing live), sponsors leaving and the season being greatly reduced. In 2010, the tour was the smallest it had been in 40 years with just 24 tournaments. With new commissioner Michael Whan in the driver’s seat, the 2011 season saw nearly 40 percent increase in TV viewership of North American events. By 2012, the LPGA experienced live weekend coverage at every domestic event, expanded TV hours and more coverage on the Golf Channel—viewership increased by 18 percent from 2011. The schedule had grown to 29 tournaments—including two unofficial events.
Another step to draw more attention to women’s golf was to put a personality behind the player, including more player profile features. In 2012, golfers Stacy Lewis, Brittany Lincicome and Christina Kim played camera operator, producer and on-air host during the Kia Classic telecast on Golf Channel, which turned out to be one of the year’s highest rated telecasts. Spanish stars Azahara Munoz and Belén Mozo also took on producer and director roles during the 2012 ShopRite LPGA Classic later that year.
Why It’s Different Out Here
LPGA Chief Communications Officer Kraig Kann said that these telecasts “in working to showcase our players and their personalities, [were] another way the LPGA can show people ‘Why It’s Different Out Here.’”
A year earlier, the LPGA launched a playful marketing campaign, “See Why It’s Different Out Here,” with the aim to show the uniqueness of the LPGA tour, as well as give a glimpse into how approachable LPGA athletes were. Its video spots were nominated for a 2011 “Best Television Commercial Series” award at the 18th Annual ING (International Network of Golf) Honors award.
2012 © LPGA “See Why It’s Different Out Here,” Courtesy of Youtube.com
While the ad campaign doesn’t offer much when it comes to the technical sport of golf, it does serve to answer fan questions about LPGA players: Who has the biggest shoe fetish, the best victory celebration (from Paula Creamer’s Cartwheels to Stacy Lewis doing a cannonball in Poppy’s Pond to celebrate her first LPGA win at Kraft Nabisco in 2011) and the best nicknames— Paula Creamer is dubbed The Pink Panther for having always worn pink since she was a little girl, while Brittany Lincicome goes by “Bam Bam” for hitting really long drivers (she is one of the longest drivers in women’s golf).
A holiday video spot did ask players how often they played golf during the offseason, and it was interesting to hear how much the women’s answers varied, from playing nearly every day to not touching their club until the beginning of the new year. And in the 2013 LPGA Ad Campaign graduated to more substance with a fan asking “If you could choose one player to sink a pressure putt, who would it be?” – Stacy Lewis was torn between players like Hall of Famer Se-Ri Pak, currently top-ranked Inbee Park and Cristie Kerr.
Innovative Makeover Causes Upswing in Women’s Golf
The campaign, along with quality play, definitely appears to have a big role in drawing a larger audience, with double-digit growth its fan base across the globe, social media following, TV ratings and corporate sponsorships again in 2012. “The performance, approachability and growing popularity of our players is the number one factor in the LPGA’s continued momentum, which has led to expanding coverage on Golf Channel, the growing slate of playing opportunities and our ever-increasing fan base,” said LPGA Commissioner Michael Whan.
The LPGA schedule for 2013 brought three new tournaments, including the upcoming $1.8 million Reignwood Pine Valley LPGA Classic in Beijing China, which kicks off the tour’s Fall Asian swing on Oct. 3. This will be the LPGA’s first trip to Beijing and is sure to draw an appreciative audience—last year Shanshan Feng became the first Chinese golfer, male or female, to win a major championship when she came in first at Wegmans LPGA Championship last year. This year also was premiere of the fifth major at The Evian at Lake Geneva Evian-Les-Bains, France, which Norwegian golfer Suzann Pettersen won Sunday, Sept. 15. While it was the last LPGA major of the season, fans can look forward to two more months of golf, culminating in the season-ending CME Group Titleholders.
Expanded LPGA Tour Season Wraps Up With CME Group Titleholders
The CME Group Titleholders, which takes place Nov. 21-24 at Tiburon Golf Club at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort in Naples, Fl., features the largest first place check of the tour at $700,000. The top three finishers from each official LPGA tournament who are LPGA members, not otherwise qualified, earn a spot in the Titleholders. Fans can expect to see The Evian Championship winner Petterson there, as well as Stacy Lewis, who clinched a second career major at the RICOH Women’s British Open in August, breaking a run of 10 majors without a win for the United States. Americans Nicole Castrala and “the face of women’s golf” Natalie Gulbis also qualified for the CME at the British Open. Other U.S. players who qualified for the CME include Cristie Kerr, The Pink Panther and Bam Bam—er, Paula Creamer and Brittany Lincicome.