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Students Develop Marketing Campaign for 2016 U.S. Open Golf Championship

There is no better way for college students to learn business than to complete real-world projects with clients. That’s the premise of the Pitt Business Projects in Marketing Course taught by Clinical Associate Professor Bob Gilbert. This past fall term his students worked with FOX Sports University, a nation-wide partnership program that brings the real world into the classroom.

Students Develop Marketing Campaign for 2016 US Open Golf tournament. FOX Sports University and the United States Golf Association (USGA) challenged students to enhance the marketing promotions of the U.S. Open Golf tournament held in June 2016 at Oakmont Country Club near Pittsburgh, to and increase excitement and engagement around the sport of golf in the greater Pittsburgh community.

The Pitt Business students were tasked with finding ways to attract young people, specifically Millennials, to watch the 2016 U.S. Open and then to continue to follow golf after the tournament concluded.

This was no easy task. Golf is widely watched by the parents of college students, not college students themselves.

The students began by conducting market research among their target audience. The sample size consisted of 686 individuals. Primary takeaways included:

  • Golf trails most other professional sports in popularity
  • The target audience was relatively uninformed about both the game itself and the players
  • There is a lot of room for improvement with perceptions and attitudes toward golf
  • The target audience is not inclined to watch golf on television
  • To improve perceptions and attitudes toward playing and watching golf, advertisers should focus on the fun, social, and competitive aspects of the game.

Based on the data, students developed a comprehensive marketing campaign. It was designed to promote the players, the sport of golf itself, and to give golf an image makeover for Millennials. Additionally, the class worked on initiatives to market the location of the U.S. Open at Oakmont.

To promote the players, students created the themes of “Transformation of Golf,” “Meet the Players,” and “Live Like A Pro.” For each, students recommended social/digital media promotions, on-air-promotions and videos, enter-to-win sweepstakes, open-for-all promotions, and website ideas. Students also recommended smartphone apps where you could virtually live like a pro and play golf in a challenging course like the players do.

Another group in the class focused their marketing efforts on the sport of golf itself. They sought to reframe the sport to make it more exciting and cool for young adults. Their promotional ideas included a slogan “Join the Club” (the club being a community of sports enthusiasts who play and/or watch golf), and they introduced ways to involve golf viewers via social media and online, to get them to engage in golf activities, and then to share their videos with the world through different social media outlets.

Lastly, the class focused their efforts on promoting the Oakmont Country Club. Their goal was to enhance the prestige of the club through the theme “Challenge Accepted.” Oakmont Country Club, which has now been the site of the U.S. Open a record nine times, has a reputation for being one of the most difficult golf courses in the entire world. Student deliverables included ideas for billboards, street decals, a mall interactive diorama, golf challenges, and more.

FOX Sports worked with the students on the project as part of its FOX Sports University program, which engages with college students on real-world sports marketing projects. There are about 35 colleges and universities involved in the program, including Columbia, North Carolina, Northwestern, New York University, and Ohio State.

“The students at Pitt made me proud to be a Pitt and a Projects in Marketing Alum. They did a really strong job presenting three solid and thorough campaigns,” says Molly Stires (BSBA ’11), who oversees the FOX Sports University Program at FOX Sports.

Collectively, the Pitt Business project was a huge success that led to class members, Melissa Mele and Cara Browning being hired to work for the USGA as a Championship Intern and a Membership Clubhouse Intern, respectively.

Watch a video of Melissa and Professor Bob Gilbert discuss the project on KDKA’s Sunday Business Page              .