Have You Herd? – July 2018

By: Rich Katz, Founder & Managing Director

Living the Dream

There’s nothing like waking up on a weekend, reading the newspaper with coffee in hand and staring at a beautifully manicured, tree-lined fairway.  If you’re like the 34% of residents who live in golf communities and play the sport, a trip to the first tee is a five-minute golf cart ride void of traffic lights.

When golf isn’t a penchant, homeowners revel in impressive schools and behind-the-gates safety as part of the high quality-of-life mix.  Throw in economic security as homes within golf communities, although purchased at higher prices, typically hold their values over 15-year horizons.  In many regions, demand for re-sales is 50% higher than properties in other neighborhoods.

Lots and single-family homes in master-planned golf communities average a 9% premium at daily-fee and semi-private courses, 14.5% at private clubs and 16.2% at resorts.  Add 6% for homes abutting courses with frontage, another 3% for lots exceeding 1.5 acres and 2% if in eyeshot of the 1st or 18th holes.  Then 1% for homes with second-floor balconies overlooking the course.  Cut these numbers in half for condos and by a third for townhomes.

The economics are potentially off-the-charts huge for developers of golf communities.  Unfortunately, too many have watched Kevin Costner in “Fields of Dreams.”  His “if you build it, they will come” proclamation need not apply.  With 91% of all real estate searches originating online, an integrated marketing strategy and precise timeline involving paid search, social media, public relations, gripping and purposeful creative campaigns, and all-things digital – backed by data analysis – are imperative.

As more golf courses populate out-of-bounds land with rooftops, developers must beat competitors by getting assertive or be left holding inventory.


Rodney Dangerfield

Once upon a time, sports turf managers across America were unsung.

They received airtime, but inherently limited to rolling out tarp upon rain.  Moreover, media incessantly and most often inaccurately blamed them for players’ injuries.

There weren’t many positive reports about their craft that fuses science and art, and prioritizes safety.

The pendulum of respect has changed.  The past five years – led by the Sports Turf Managers Association and Buffalo’s public relations and social media stewardship – there’s been aggressive and thoughtful promotion of all that’s great about these professionals around the globe.  After all, they surgically curate acres upon acres of fields to provide athletes with immaculate and secure conditions to perform their best.

At 37 years young, public perception about STMA’s 2,700-plus men and women members – many of whom hold PhDs – is decidedly favorable.  Across 34 local chapters, they oversee facilities at schools, colleges and universities, parks and recreational facilities, and professional sports stadiums.  Sports include football, baseball, soccer, lacrosse, softball, rugby and horse racing.  High-profile members represent Real Madrid C.F., the Green Bay Packers, Washington Nationals, University of Oklahoma and City of Phoenix Parks and Recreation Department.

A spate of recent STMA publicity includes a spotlight in this past Sunday’s “Parade,” America’s most popular magazine with a print circulation of 22 million and website visits eclipsing 2.5 million monthly.  Adjacent to a “Play Ball” cover story featuring Mark Wahlberg, STMA member Andrew Marking, head groundskeeper for the Quad Cities River Bandits, the Class-A affiliate of the Houston Astros, garnered praise.  His “Banks of the Mississippi River” design won the organization’s Stars and Stripes mowing pattern contest.

Exposure like this helps STMA members significantly increase their importance and stature among employers, resulting in salaries rising past all-time highs.

Here’s to continuing to shed the misguided Rodney Dangerfield label of yesteryear.


Inaugural Class

Giving back to an industry we serve is important.

That’s why we just launched Buffalo.Collective, designed to promote a limited number of early-stage and emerging golf, sport and lifestyle brands with high-appeal offerings and storylines.  We create and execute affordable, custom programs around core public relations, supported by digital-social media, experiential activations and industry introductions.

Agency goals for Buffalo.Collective partners:

  • Increase B2B and B2C market awareness and credibility through publicity
  • Establish social and digital media strategies which prompt frequent, positive interactions with brands
  • Create and execute activities around trade shows and other events to position brands in front of influencers
  • Ignite sales by introducing brands to Buffalo’s extensive, longstanding and tight golf, sport and lifestyle industry connections and influencing their decision-making

During the selection process, a wide spectrum of young, passionate businesses submitted their interests to join the inaugural Buffalo.Collective.  The agency also sought out cool, inspiring brands.  The four winning partners:

  • Bermuda 3s Team Championship – Teams comprised of a PGA Professional and three amateurs compete against one another, representing the U.S., Canada, Great Britain-Ireland and continental Europe, from October 21-26, in this inaugural tournament
  • The Godsal – Sleek, sporty and fire-engine red, this 1930s custom automobile was featured in the 1969 “Mosquito Squadron” movie and is among the most revered antiques worldwide
  • Rocket Tour – Designs, manufactures and sells premium, stylish headcovers for golf clubs including the top collegiate programs in the U.S.
  • State Apparel – Re-inventing functional golf shirts and pants with special towel-like fabrics for intuitive wiping layers to clean golfers’ hands, clubs and balls.

Sparking our inaugural, up-and-coming partners in an exciting, incubator environment is, well, exciting.


Rich Storytelling

Next week, Golf Channel debuts “Vantage Point with Mike Tirico.”  Its news magazine format balances shows like “Golf Central” that – akin to ESPN’s “SportsCenter” – provides digestible news items.

Call it genius.  Despite Americans’ hurry-up lives, there are stories so rich with fascination, they can’t be shortchanged.  One or two minutes don’t do the trick.  Six to 10 minutes provide detail and a beginning, middle and end.  NBC’s “Dateline” extends to one and occasionally two hours, and its ratings have held steady since 1992.  CBS’s “60 Minutes” debuted in 1968.

Data doesn’t lie.  At a 4:1 ratio, viewers prefer either quick items less than 75 seconds or reports more than six minutes.  Content consumption between these bookends falls precipitously.  Stories more than 15 minutes doubly hold attentions.

There’s correlation between demographics and story length.  As expected, the higher the household income, the greater the interest and ability to absorb more detail over time.  These viewers are also more likely to gravitate to stories which touch emotional chords, no matter the happy or unfortunate conclusions.  Golf Channel brass and Tirico will play to this characteristic.

Human-interest stories head the class.  Throw in investigations and exposés of controversy, overcoming adversity, friendships and team bondings, and innovation that bucks trends and conventional wisdom.  Tales with impact on global scales amplify interest levels.  Therein lie trappings of TV ratings bonanzas.

Who says the egg timer is running?


Learning Labs

“Kill or be killed” is a phrase oft-maligned as kitschy yet frequently apropos.

It provides backdrop to the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America acquiring First Green five months ago.  And it becomes even more real when First Green unveils its new website – designed by Buffalo – in early August.

Growing the profession among future generations is the mandate.  There are 17,000 plus GCSAA members who meticulously present well-conditioned layouts to golfers.  “Pay it forward,” they say, about their agronomic labor of love.  The GCSAA is poised to take First Green to the next level.

We all know golf courses are great places to play, but did you know they can be great places to teach and learn?

First Green is an innovative environmental education and outreach program for youth.  It uses golf courses as STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) “learning labs” where students from middle school to 12th grade perform hands-on experiments and tests.  Studies at these outdoor classrooms fall within the focus of their schools’ environmental science and horticulture curriculums.

Students test water quality, collect soil samples, identify plants, perform math activities and work with local issues such as stream-bed or owl-nest restoration.

Since 1997, First Green persevered through cooperation with school districts, golf courses, institutional grants and individual donors.  More than 15,000 students have been on First Green field trips.  Each workshop reaches an average 75 students who learn about golf and the environment.  For most kids, it’s their first exposure to the game.

Teachers and golf course superintendents work together to tailor lessons, providing kits and study guides, making it easy to quickly organize and host a field trip.  From there, the course environment becomes the star.  Putting greens morph into math problems; sand, clay and silt offer lessons in soil science; and a small stream transforms into a big laboratory for experiments with water sources, quality and flow rate.