Have You Herd? – May 2019

Stay ‘n’ Play

With a host of amazing golf resort and destination clients, Buffalo’s team follows travel trends like a hawk.

Business travel is up thanks largely to a significant return to face-to-face meetings over hiding behind emails.

Leisure tourism is also up.  Much is attributed to a prevailing “life-is-short” mentality and cravings to frequently create vacation memories with families and friends.

In response to the domestic and international rises, Hilton expansion plans feature 2,400 hotels with more than 364,000 rooms in 103 countries.  Joining the party is Marriott, forecasting 275,000 to 295,000 new rooms by 2021 and boasting 478,000 rooms in its development pipeline.  Both brands operate golf resorts worldwide.

The chains are expecting RevPar increases of 1% to 3%, and the new money is allocated to modernize hotels’ looks, feels and offerings to all things upscale.  Freshness is required to stay competitive and earn substantial lifetime value from millennial guests and a rapidly growing middle class.

It’s also to stave off a growing Airbnb travel community (albeit Marriott just announced plans to launch its version of home rentals).  Airbnb’s technology allows regular people to become hospitality entrepreneurs, and travelers to experience home stays void of oft-antiseptic personalities of brand flags.

To say Airbnb won’t be ubiquitous a la Uber over time is an understatement:  More than 150M people book rooms and homes from 2.9M hosts across 6M listings in 200 countries and 81,000 cities.  Roughly 75,000 companies use Airbnb for employees.  The average number of new hosts is 14,000 monthly and, since inception, they’ve earned $65B from 500M arrivals.

These are game-changing movements in the hospitality space.  As such, Buffalo counsels its golf resort and destination clients on evolving and positioning their brands.  Without contemporary strategies, it’s difficult to attract guests brandishing modern-day behaviors, criteria and expectations about where to stay in play.

Invest Now

Serial investors are taking a hard look at the golf industry as a good bet.

Tiger Woods won his fifth Masters Tournament and as he goes, so does all things golf.  TV ratings typically soar by almost 30% when Tiger plays and this causes a major influx of new golfers.

Déjà vu.

There’s no stopping participation growth in the sport and the already healthy $84 billion annual golf sector.

According to the National Golf Foundation “2019 Golf Industry Report,” total golf participation rose to 33.5M in 2018 (up from 32.1M prior year).  Much is attributed to an increase in golf entertainment centers, driving ranges and simulator activity.  On-course players stabilized at 24.2M, despite heavier precipitation levels than normal across America during golf’s busiest months.

Fun fact No. 1:  Almost one in every nine Americans plays golf in some form, topping participation in basketball, tennis, baseball, skiing and many other sports.

Fun fact No. 2:  Golf is the largest outdoor, pay-for-play, individual participation sport in the U.S.

In 2018, there were 4.7 million on- and off-course golfers between the ages of 6 and 17. Accounting for about 10% of all on-course golfers, an increase in the junior ranks is principally due to 36% being girls compared to 15% in 2000.

Representing 23% of all golfers, females held steady the past five years with 5.6M (including 900,000 juniors) currently.  The demographic contains a disproportionately higher percentage of beginners (31%), juniors (36%) and off-course participants (44%) than the overall golf population.

There were an estimated 2.6 million beginners – those who played on a golf course for the first time – in 2018 which is near record levels and marks the fifth straight year with over 2M.

An all-time high 14.7M Americans say they are “very interested” and “somewhat interested” in taking up the game on a golf course. As the industry makes golf more welcoming and less intimidating for first-timers, that latent-demand number should climb even more.

Also appealing to golf’s sustainability is a steady pool of committed golfers that accounts for about 95% of spending and rounds played.  This avid set guards against a major participation shortfall.

Lastly, golf’s total reach of 107 million is noteworthy, representing 36% of the U.S. population over the age of five.

Talent News

A few months ago, we announced Buffalo spun from parent company Indigo Golf Partners (one of America’s largest owner-operators of golf courses, country clubs and resorts) and formed our new Buffalo Groupe entity.  This was prompted by outside capital used to build even stronger integrated marketing platforms for clients.  It’s our job to efficiently connect brands with buyers in the golf lifestyle and adjacent luxury verticals.

A key pillar is expanding our executive team.  Adding these Senior Vice Presidents demonstrates Buffalo’s commitment to help clients smartly grow their businesses:

Teresa Olsen, Head of Strategy, is an innovative visionary who worked in multiple industries during her 30-year career. Most recently, she directed strategy for Hallmark Cards’ 2,000-plus stores while expanding distribution and omni-channel retailing to generate new consumer engagement.  Previously, Olsen was a principal in eCreativeSearch, a venture-backed digital start-up in Chicago that served as a global archival resource of video ads for advertisers, agencies and production companies.  Her additional strategy and marketing work includes Procter & Gamble, Coors Brewing Co., Mead Johnson, Burger King and Nestlé.

Lauren Nodzak, Head of Client Strategy and Service, is based in the New York City area. For five years, she spearheaded public relations and influencer marketing for Pernod Ricard USA, the premium spirits and wine company.  Previously, Nodzak led public relations at Mars Chocolate North America where her integrated marketing campaigns contributed to PR Week naming her to its “40 Under 40” list.

Emily Clark, Head of People and Culture, was Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Indigo Golf Partners, Buffalo’s former parent company and largest current shareholder. Over nine years, she built cutting-edge marketing tools and managed a 30-person team that drove top- and bottom-line growth for the company’s 150 golf courses in 29 states.  Major achievements include establishing the World’s Largest Golf Outing that raised more than $3.5 million for military families.  Clark combines exceptional people skills with technology and analytics to shape recruiting, retention, employee-appreciation programming and other talent-related initiatives.

The appointments follow Derek Koenig becoming our Chief Creative and Content Officer.  He’s built Buffalo Studios to help clients tell inspiring stories which drive business across all platforms.  Previously, Koenig was SVP Creative for Discovery Communications’ in-house agency, leading a team that supported its global businesses with marketing, promotion, short-form digital, VR and branded content campaigns.  He also led rebrands for TLC, ID, HD Theater and Discovery Home.  Winner of multiple Emmys, Effies, Webbys and Adweek “Campaigns of the Year,” Koenig held senior marketing positions with AOL, Sony, Discover Financial and Leo Burnett where he managed McDonald’s, Pillsbury and P&G accounts.  As Vail Resorts’ CMO, he oversaw all global marketing, research, sales, digital, sponsorships and event marketing, including launch of its EPIC Pass digital platform and signing Olympic gold medalist Lindsey Vonn as spokesperson.

Headquartered outside Washington, D.C., our 55-person team serves companies and organizations connected to the golf, sport and lifestyle markets globally.  Buffalo’s data-driven approach helps 60-plus clients grow brand equity and revenue and is led by award-winning talent in the areas of marketing strategy, public relations, content development, social media, media buying, creative, data analytics, and digital and search-engine marketing.

Good Times

The first quarter of 2019 saw the U.S. economy expand at an impressive 3.2% annualized rate, besting forecasts by nearly a point.

The unemployment rate fell to 3.6% in April – a wildly impressive 49-year low – as 63,000 non-farm payrolls were added.  Moreover, the Federal Reserve characterized economic activity as “solid” and kept key interest rates unchanged between 2.25% and 2.5%.  Wages are higher than last year and growing faster than the cost of living.

Just over 50% of Americans say their personal finances are improving, issuing the economy “good” and “excellent” ratings, the most upbeat assessment in 18 years.

Combined with consistent stock market rises, likelihood of a recession in the coming 24 months has weakened.

With money flowing and consumer confidence brimming, the window for residential developers and homeowners to sell properties with aplomb is now.  Reports show Baby Boomers are planning earlier than ever for retirement and, in droves, on the cusp of purchasing getaway, rental and second homes for the wind-down times in their lives.

Additionally, travel pundits predict a sharp rise in summer vacations.  Resorts and destinations are rightfully marketing like crazy to ride the momentum.  The philosophy of spending one marketing dollar to make two in revenue is spot on; however, if campaigns are improperly messaged, carried across the wrong vehicles and reaching audiences which are too broad, ROI is questionable.  Our Buffalo team eliminates the guesswork.

The Bowtie Returns

My favorite and the best golf newsletter is “Morning Read.”  It features cutting-edge articles – i.e. news, topics and opinions you can’t get elsewhere – authored by famous golf writers six days a week.

Morning Read’s Founder and Publisher just happens to be Alex Miceli.  You likely recall his dynamic on-air reports (and rants) on Golf Channel a few years back.  He’s the guy with the array of colorful bowties and Wilford Brimley-like mustache.

Now, every week, he’s scheduled to offer his effusive commentaries on camera within Morning Read newsletters.  Here are his first two, aptly named “One Take with Alex Miceli:”

Episode 1
Episode 2







Sponsors are aligning their brands with this video series and its highly engaged audience of active, transactional golfers.

Contact Chris Van Duyne (chris@morningread.com) for more information.

Free subscription to Morning Read.