PGAExceeding goals: par for the course

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The PGA of America asked DS to manage PR and social media efforts for the 95th PGA Championship, at Rochester’s Oak Hill Country Club in August 2013. The PGA wanted to sell out tickets and corporate hospitality, fill its 3,800 volunteer positions, raise general awareness and secure media coverage within a 300-mile radius of the club. “Sure, no problem,” we said. “Gulp,” we thought. (Well, for about three seconds.)

We created a steady stream of PGA Championship news through press releases, media alerts, photo opps, guerrilla PR stunts, and a strong social media presence that listened to and engaged with fans on a daily basis. DS pushed consistent messaging to the media in order to generate awareness, early excitement, sales and volunteers. Major tactics included a regional media tour of NYS and Ontario, Canada, and Golf Balls on Parade, 5’ fiberglass golf balls sold to area businesses and painted by local artists. We also put on media and tourism receptions in Toronto, a PGA History Exhibit featuring rare artifacts at the Rochester Museum & Science Center, and Media Day with defending champion Rory McIlroy.

Our social media campaign took a “think like a fan” approach. We gave them what they wanted, which was to have fun, go behind the scenes, keep up with breaking news, receive exclusive content and be brought to the tournament grounds, if only virtually. And they wanted to be heard, so we actively listened, and made sure they knew it, too. This fan-first approach generated more than 159 million impressions. Another benefit of listening: During the final round, it helped the PGA Championship prevent a fan from running across the 18th fairway!

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The PGA Championship social media audience grew by 160% (16,172 to 42,092). During the 12 days when Facebook Promoted Posts ran with Google ads, average daily ticket sales increased by more than 85%. Final results: Clubhouse tickets sold out months early, all 3,800 volunteer positions were promptly filled, state support was secured and corporate hospitality was 95% sold six months out. From January 2013 to August 2013, DS generated nearly $15 million in ad value and nearly 318 million impressions. The publicity value garnered from print, online and broadcast media delivered an ROI of nearly a 273:1.

Yes, it was challenging. Did we need a handicap? Not a chance.