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4 branding lessons you can learn from the Masters


Earlier this week, I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the Masters in Augusta, Ga. (big thanks to my friend, Ryan Mathre for inviting me along!). This was a vacation—make no bones about it. But, I sometimes find it tough to shut the hamster wheel in my head off.

As we roamed the spectacular grounds (for my personal thoughts on the trip, see my full review posts–and Ryan’s–here), I couldn’t help but think about how fantastic the Masters folks are at marketing their event.

Want a pass for the week? It’s going to cost you at least $7,500—or get on the waiting list (no telling how long that will take you–and you can only get tickets for one day really).

Want to broadcast the Masters? I’m sure ESPN would give anything (and I mean anything) to broadcast those last two days on Saturday and Sunday.

Want to play? Forget it. The Masters invites only a limited amount of players to the event each year. And, you have to be a winner (or former champion) to set foot on the grounds.

Point is, the Masters has created a product that is in such demand—from an advertiser, consumer and player standpoint—that most people will stop at nothing to get in, support or participate.

Folks, that’s marketing.

What can your brand learn from the holiest of golf institutions? Plenty.

Put everything you have into the experience your product or service creates. This is where the Masters excels. If you’ve attended the event you know what I mean. From the moment you slip past the turnstiles, you know you’re at a different kind of event. The food is affordable ($2.75 for a  beer at a major championship).  The parking is free and close to the venue (underrated perk if you’ve been to one of the other major championships). The course is spotless. Even the bathrooms are immaculate (and they’re not porta-poddies). The Masters has made a habit out of focusing on the experience. And it continues to pay off. Year after year after year. How much time is your organization devoting to focusing on the experience you’re creating for your customers? Are you thinking about all the senses? Considering all the finer details?

Visual identity does matter. I’ve blogged plenty about the trap of focusing too much on your logo when it comes to branding 101. But, the fact remains, that Masters logo is everywhere. And people love it. I love it. Hell, I would buy a tube of toothpaste with that logo on it. At the event, you’ll find the Masters insignia everywhere—on the food, on the merchandise, on the green jackets and on the flags. You literally cannot look around for more than five minutes and not see that logo. It has become an American icon. So, while you want to make sure you’re considering the entire brand experience, you still want to make sure you’re also creating a compelling visual identity that resonates with your customers and potential customers.

Don’t over-focus on the bottom line. You know how much I paid for my ticket (again, thanks to Ryan Mathre)? $41. My sandwich? $2.50. My pink lemonade? $1.50. Heck, I don’t pay those kinds of prices at my local movie theater. This is one of the best sporting events on the face of the earth. Why aren’t they charging more? Because they know, with loyalty comes dollars. With passion comes money. And they have plenty of both. Look no further than the merchandise tents. They don’t overcharge for the merchandise, but it’s not exactly cheap. But, those buildings were almost full every time I walked by. I don’t know for a fact, but I’m guessing each year the Masters must clear millions in merchandise alone. And I’m guessing CBS pays them a pretty penny for broadcasting rights, too. So again, the lesson is simple: Focus on the experience. The rest will take care of itself (with a little help, of course).

Blend tradition with technology. What am I getting at here? When you think of the Masters, what comes to mind? Arnie Palmer? Jack Nicklaus? Tiger Woods, perhaps? All famous golfers–and historic Augusta figures–who are invited back year after year. These men aren’t just  champions golfers at Augusta–they are the Masters. Augusta does a tremendous job of blending their heritage with new technologies as a strategy to reaching that next generation of Masters fans. Even though I’m not completely enamored with the changes to their new Web site (last year’s upgrade was incredible), it’s still a great resource. And, although I’m not an iPhone user, I’ve heard the Masters app is tremendous (would also like to see them develop an Android app). And, this year, they’re even experimenting with 3-D TV (can you imagine Augusta in 3-D high def on your couch–yowzers). To reach and connect with the younger generations, the Masters knows it needs a more prominent online presence. They have a ways to go, sure. But, they seem to be embracing the tools. How can your brand mix tradition and history with technology and new media to reach and influence all your demographics?

Been to the Masters? I’d love to hear your additions to this list.



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