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THINKING OUTSIDE THE BOX
BASF HITS HOLE-IN-ONE WITH SUPERINTENDENTS' GOLF TOURNAMENT
Before I tell you about the 2004 BASF People vs. the Pros at Pinehurst - a PGA-sanctioned golf competition hosted by title sponsor BASF Turf & Ornamental and presenting sponsor Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA) - a word from one of the participants can do a superb job of setting the table for analyzing this event. Kind of like hitting the driving range and putting green before teeing off.

"We had a practice round and three tournament rounds. We had social events and dinners that were awesome. This was one of the most enjoyable and memorable experiences I have participated in, in all my 17 years in the golf business," says Rickie Lipscomb, golf course superintendent, Willow Spring, N.C.

This August 2004 event was an effort by BASF to create an image among golf course superintendents that it was interested in promoting the value these formerly called "greens keepers" bring to the golf industry. BASF sent 13 golf course superintendents from throughout the country, 12 winners in regional qualifying tournaments nationwide and one at-large entrant, to compete in a 54-hole Finals competition at Pinehurst.

To further recognize superintendents, BASF introduced the BASF Superintendent's Cup - a tournament within a tournament - where the two golf course superintendents with the lowest net scores from the three-day Finals event competed in head-to-head match play for a grand prize of $10,000 in cash and $10,000 worth of BASF turf products for the winner's home courses. The second-place finisher in the BASF Superintendent's Cup received a cash prize of $5,000.

The golf course superintendents joined about 200 other golfers in the 54-hole People vs. the Pros competition. The two overall winners of that event, one from each age category, then competed against PGA star John Daly and PGA Champions player/golf broadcaster Gary McCord in a match play with a grand prize of $100,000. The match was taped for ESPN and will be broadcast Dec. 6.

Oh, by the way, the 2005 U.S. Open will be held at Pinehurst. Those lucky stiffs. In my next life (which could be sooner than later in this business), I want to be a golf course superintendent who can golf well.

IMAGE-BUILDING FOR BASF

Stephen Briggs, director of BASF Specialty Products Department, says getting behind this promotional golf event is all about recognizing the importance of what superintendents mean to the golf experience and what's good for business for his company. "The exposure for BASF and the value of this program is there," says Briggs. "The value proposition is good. We wanted to tie in our ultimate end-users (golf course superintendents) into an event like this."

And just how did they do that? By holding the qualifying events for the tournament for superintendents throughout the country, while at the same time doing training on BASF products and, in some cases, bringing in key speakers to discuss important issues as it relates to maintaining a quality golf course.

"It was about education and getting our BASF reps meeting with superintendents and doing more than just eating and playing golf," Briggs explains. "We were delivering information to superintendents to bring more value to them at their courses."

(l to r): Gary McCord; John Daly; Phil Johnson, 50+ division winner; John Sniegowski, 18-40 division winner; Scott Van Pelt, ESPN, Steve Briggs, director, BASF Specialty Products Department; Steve Mona, CEO, Golf Course Superintendents Association of America; Andy Batkin, president, Innovative Media Solutions; Donald Padgett II, president, Pinehurst Resort.
Scott Pevey, account director at Winnercomm, part of the team of agencies BASF works with for its marketing efforts, appreciated BASF's aggressive commitment to this unique strategy. "The bull's-eye was on the superintendent and how to connect and build a strong relationship for BASF," he says. "The entire focus was to elevate the status of superintendents and drive home to them that the golf community appreciates all they do for us," he says. "With an educational focus at regional qualifying events, BASF saw this as a way to help superintendents do their jobs better on a day-to-day basis and bring new ideas and solutions to the table."

Winnercomm worked closely with Padilla Speer Beardsley (PSB) to execute the event. Elements included a large number of logistical items, including:
  • Invitations to the qualifying events
  • Collateral and sell sheets
  • Information packets
  • Travel arrangements for winners (and a significant other)
  • Signage (at event locations, including tee boxes)
  • Gifts for players, including some golf equipment, apparel, balls, etc.


"This was a first-class effort for a first-class event," says Pevey. To top it off, BASF presented a check for $30,000 to GCSAA's Steve Mona for its Environmental Institute for Golf. That included $2,000 that BASF had given to each chapter that participated in the qualifying events.

PUBLICITY EFFORTS

Meanwhile, there were numerous publicity opportunities to draw attention to BASF for the superintendent golfers who participated in the tournament. Chris Higgins, account supervisor for PSB, says publicity to all superintendents about the BASF effort was accomplished through regional chapter newsletters and pre- and post-event publicity in Green Industry trade magazines that reach superintendents. Consumer media efforts focused on overall tournament winners and publicizing the ESPN air dates.

The highlight of trade media relations was invitations to editors of key golf trade books: Golfdom, Golf Course Management, Golf Course News and SuperNEWS. Editors were treated to an agronomic overview of No. 2 Pinehurst, learning about course preparations for the 2005 U.S. Open. They met with BASF staff and then were afforded the opportunity to play golf at Pinehurst as well. (OK, I'm really jealous here!)

The decision to participate in the 2004 tournament came late in the process, and thus the program elements and marketing efforts were a little late in getting off the ground. All parties noted this and are eager to make the 2005 event a bigger success. "Based on the time we had to put the qualifying tournaments together and other logistics, it met our expectations for success and accomplished our intentions," says Higgins. "The Superintendent's Cup portion went well from a publicity standpoint. We've seen excellent coverage nationally and, more importantly, BASF's relationship with its key media and target audience is much stronger."

The effort to publicize and promote the event through superintendents throughout the United States will get started earlier for the 2005 event. "We want some real excitement at local chapters," says Briggs. Adds Pevey: "The good news is everyone attending appreciated what was done, and we hope they will bring the word back and tell the masses about this event. It was fabulous the way we could reach out and connect with superintendents and build a strong relationship for BASF.

"We wanted a sure-fire event that opened the eyes of the superintendents," Briggs concludes. "We wanted to get them excited about this event and BASF, and build on that for the future. We had the superintendents and spouses at the event from Wednesday through Monday. That's five days to say thanks for a job well done."

Briggs also addressed the entire audience of 200 golfers (plus spouses, resulting in more than 400 people) in the People vs. the Pros banquet. "We called out each superintendent individually and called them the unsung heroes. Each golfer in the audience is a member of some course. We wanted to thank these superintendents and encourage the other golfers to go back and thank their superintendents."

I think John Newton, superintendent, Ames, Iowa, said it best when asked about what was done
at the tournament to advance the BASF image: "The opening session remarks about the golf course superintendent and how BASF is helping us make the courses better, the association with GCSAA at the event, the Superintendents Cup and the sportsmanship of all the competitors. I really like the format of the event and the banquets to meet other
competitors."

Oh, who won the Superintendent Cup tournament? Kip Wilson of American Legion Golf Course, Kokomo, Ind., and Mathew Fitzpatrick of Dublin, Ga., Golf Club, was runner-up.

I'll be waiting for my invitation to next year's event (Yeah, right. That's going to happen!) AM

Den Gardner is owner of Gardner & Gardner Communications, New Prague, Minn.


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