2009 Australian Masters tournament promoter, IMG, needed to implement a radically different strategy to reinvigorate the event.
The vision for the Masters was to create a world class golf tournament to attract attendees, event partners and change the perception of golf tournaments in Australia.
The vision was to secure top international golfers to play at a world renowned Victorian golf course and showcase Melbourne as the sporting capital of the world.
Never before had an Australian golf tournament successfully secured the combination of a World #1 and an Australian #1.
The event was moved from its home of 30 years, Huntingdale Golf Club, to internationally acclaimed Kingston Heath Golf Club.
The revitalised tournament secured JBWere as its major partner and a new broadcast partner in Channel Nine.
The 2009 JBWere Masters attracted unprecedented interest across broadcast, internet and print media.
General admission tickets sold out. The tournament achieved record attendance.
For the past five years the Australian Masters attracted approximately 40,000 attendees. Perceptions of the tournament in 2009 were poor and IMG needed to secure a major sponsor and broadcast partner.
Media commentary and Sweeney Sports Research in 2008 revealed tournament golf in Australia was damaged goods.
IMG and the Victorian Government believed that the Australian Masters could deliver a major event platform with the right content.
cms was engaged to communicate that the Masters was revitalised and that Australian golf tournaments could be successful like their overseas counterparts.
The communications team faced numerous challenges including limited marketing budget due to the significant investment in players, restricted access to golfers and achieving cut through media messages in a saturated major events and sporting environment.
- 2007-2008 Sweeney Sports Report revealed golf was suffering. Interest dropped to 23%, the lowest level since inception of the report. Participation (14%) and television viewing (19%) were also at record lows.
- 2008 media coverage relating to Victorian Government sponsorship of the event showed negativity towards the use of tax payer money funding major events. The announcement that Woods had been secured for the Masters could generate further negative media sentiment around Government funding.
- Whilst Woods was injured tournaments in the USA experienced declining attendance and TV ratings. Having Woods play in Australia could positively impact ticket sales
- The Victorian Major Events Company (VMEC) engaged Ernst & Young to undertake a pre-event assessment which contributed to establishing benchmarks for the 2009 campaign. Results found:
- A major event could achieve $19 million economic benefit to the State
- Creating a major sporting event attracts interstate and overseas visitors.
The PR campaign became the platform for communicating key messages about the field, venue and long-term vision for the tournament.
Golf and sport enthusiasts: Desire to see Woods play in Australia after 11 years
Media: Essential to communicating the tournament vision and event messages.
Event stakeholders: Including the Victorian Government, sponsors and Channel Nine to ensure they deemed the Australian Masters a ‘property’ to partner beyond 2009
Major event attendees: Encourage consideration of the Masters as an event option.
The communications campaign needed to change the perception of golf.
The challenge was to position the Australian Masters as an annual premium golf tournament and ensure awareness translated to ticket sales and visitation to Victoria.
cms recognised Woods participation would generate national media interest so ‘Tiger Mania’ was leveraged to communicate event messages.
The partnership with the Victorian Government enabled the Premier and Ministers to participate in strategically spaced media announcements to drive ticket sales.
To manage consistent messaging around potential issues including ticketing policy and tax payer money use, Q&A’s were prepared for IMG, Government and Woods.
The campaign centred on the ‘Best in Class’ with the tagline ‘Like Never Before’ adopted around the opportunity to watch Woods and Ogilvy whilst showcasing the new Masters venue on the famed Melbourne sandbelt, Kingston Heath Golf Club.
The ticketing strategy focused on this unique sporting opportunity. Once tickets sold out, messaging shifted to educating patrons on how to have the best event experience and for those not attending to catch the action on Channel Nine.
Media partners were briefed to support event messages and announcements. Exclusive promotional and interview opportunities were presented to partners as an event benefit.
Awareness of key initiatives instigated for the greater golfing community relied upon the communications campaign.
- Junior Day at the Masters offered 1000 children the opportunity to sit in the 18th green grandstand on Pro Am day
- The tournament supported Horsham and Marysville Golf Clubs to raise funds following Black Saturday.
The communications campaign was broken into five key components:
- Announce Woods and Ogilvy
- Implement ticketing strategy
- JBWere Masters pre-tournament media campaign
- Tournament media campaign
- Post event analysis.
A timeline was created to manage the implementation of the five key components of the campaign.
The PR team planned, managed and implemented all media announcements including preparation of key messages, Q&As, media releases and speaker notes, as well as liaising with Ministerial media advisors.
- Build momentum surrounding the Australian Masters key players, Woods and Ogilvy
- Ensure event messaging communicated by Premier Brumby
- Developed Woods video and Ogilvy vignette as neither player would be physically present
- Prepared issues management documentation
- Established national target media distribution list.
The participation of Woods and Ogilvy was leaked to the media the day prior to scheduled announcement. The crisis communication plan was implemented.
- Media call at Kingston Health Golf Club with Premier and Minister Merlino
- IMG representative conducted one-on-one interviews.
- To generate hype and interest in the event, tickets went on sale three months after player announcement
- Ticket sales launched by Premier Brumby and Minister Merlino
- Interstate travel packages promoted through a double page spread in News Ltd national travel section, Escape
- Ticket sale update was given by Minister Holding at broadcast and player announcement
- Tickets sold out was announced by Minister Holding at the JBWere naming right sponsor announcement.
Pre-tournament campaign initiatives
- Created messages for media activity around ticket status, capacity restrictions, PR initiatives, and viewing experience
- Worked with media partners on promotions, editorial content and onsite requirements
- Herald Sun, 3AW, SEN, Channel Nine, FOX SPORTS and BigPond
- Social media facebook and twitter campaign
- three months of online activity
- Sponsor and media golf day at Kingston Heath Golf Club
- Engaged key media
- Mechanism to liaise with sponsors and develop leveraging opportunities
- Junior Day at the Masters
- Worked with Stuart Appleby Junior Golf and the Geelong District Golf Association to promote the opportunity to members through e-newsletters and websites
- Launched initiative with a pictorial opportunity at the broadcast announcement
- Initiative included in all Government and media partner briefing notes
- Bushfire affected Horsham Golf Club and Marysville Golf Club charity initiatives
- PR around the tournament support generated local story opportunities and an exclusive with the Sunday Herald Sun
- Initiative included in media partner briefing notes
- Managing media interest in Woods
- Prepared a media strategy document including potential issues and Q&As for Woods and his management team
- Managed media requests and responded accordingly
- Staged open media conference with Woods
- Media centre
- Developed media centre manual
- Accredited 200 media representatives from a possible 250 applications
- Celebrity participation
- Invited celebrities to participate in Pro Am and attend tournament dinner.
- Onsite media centre management
- Media partner management and assistance
- Channel Nine Today Show three day live broadcast
- SEN, 3AW, FOX SPORTS and Bigpond onsite OB
- Herald Sun onsite reporters and photographers
- Manage player media engagements
- Generate media interest in Pro Am participants and Junior Day at the Masters
- Tournament dinner media management.
The JBWere Masters was declared one of the most successful golf events staged in Australia.
Tournament achievements were unprecedented for golf in Australia.
- 107,607 people attended, a 143% increase on 2008 (Appendix A1)
- 221,775 unique visitors to the tournament website, an increase of 2,251% on 2008
- Cumulative average domestic television audience of 3,037,920 across the tournament on Channel Nine and FOXSPORTS, a 96% increase on 2008 (Appendix A2).
PR campaign results exceeded expectations and included ‘what’s on’ columns, interviews and features (Appendix A3).
- Over 20,000 online articles were monitored globally during the campaign period (Appendix A4)
- Player announcement – 1371 articles
- Ticket launch – 190 articles
- Broadcast announcement – 117 articles
- Naming rights and tickets sold out – 426 articles
- Tournament month – 11,800 articles
- Significant spikes of media coverage were achieved as a result of media announcement strategy (Appendix A5)
- 60% of articles generated by media announcements ran at least one key message (Appendix A6)
- JBWere appeared in 90 major metropolitan print articles and 14 photographs during tournament week (Appendix A7)
- The Masters appeared on 26 front pages and 55 front covers of sport in major metropolitan print during the campaign period (Appendix A8, A9)
- 615 Facebook fans and 728 Twitter followers (Appendix A10, A11)
- National News Ltd double page feature in Escape supplement (Appendix A12).
Due to budget constraints there was no media monitoring of broadcast media.
A visitor survey by IER Pty Ltd during tournament week found:
- 38% of ticket holders came from interstate or overseas
- 90% of visitors were satisfied or very satisfied with the event.
1. Attract in excess of 70,000 patrons through media announcements promoting ticketing and tournament messages
- Event sold-out, record attendance of 107,607
- Significant spikes in media coverage around announcements was generated
- For the first time the Australian Masters engaged in social media activity on Facebook and Twitter.
2. Engage Victorian Government to support media announcements
- The Premier or a Minister participated in every media announcement
- A Government representative was quoted in 66% of event media releases distributed
- During tournament week two media calls were coordinated for Minister Holding and Premier Brumby was incorporated into Woods first media conference.
3. Secure 15% media activity interstate and overseas to drive visitation to Victoria
- Media monitoring of online and print picked up 4,241 individual clippings, 53% of which were secured interstate.
4. Ensure 50% take up of naming rights sponsor with correct use of tournament name
- The full event title appeared in 90 major metropolitan newspaper articles during tournament week
- Channel Nine used the event logo when introducing daily news items
- JBWere re-signed as naming rights sponsor for two additional years.
5. Manage media to maintain positive perceptions of players – to ascertain player satisfaction and ultimately repeat participation
- When accepting the trophy Woods said he would love to come back to Australia. In June 2010 he affirmed this by announcing that he will be back to defend his 2009 title.
6. Develop messaging to ensure attendees and non-attending public had great experience
- Random sample surveyed indicated that 91% of Melburnians surveyed were aware of the 2009 event.
The campaign over delivered on all objectives ensuring that all tournament goals were achieved.
- The Masters was declared an event under the Major Sporting Events Act 2009. This legislation has applied to the Commonwealth Games, World Swim Championships and AFL Grand Final
- The sell-out event generated $34 million economic impact which was 55% above the estimated $19 million.