Mar 25, 2013

Selling With Sex: A Sustainable Marketing Strategy for Golf & Golfers?

The Red Bikini Special      via 
What could be more seductive... particularly for those of us enduring a chilly, gray Spring... than the prospect of summer?

That idea could be part of the strategy behind Cape Cod Golf Vacations' Red Bikini campaign.  It definitely worked for me, as I suddenly felt compelled to begin curating my summer wardrobe.

I'm guessing however, that the main motivating factor being addressed in the eye-catching ad is the promise that your day on the links would come with a side order of sexy-ladies-in-skimpy-swimsuits.

Sex Sells. It's a marketing strategy that's as old as advertising itself, and every bit as ubiquitous as the aspirational imagery of expensive cars, opulent homes and happy families we're bombarded with daily.

The notable thing with "sex appeal advertising" is that it so often incites discussion... even in our current era of pushed envelopes and exceeded limits... which allows it to transcend its target audience and reach consumers who may have missed it otherwise.  This is particularly pertinent now that social media has been added to the marketing equation.

The Play Golf With Blair presented by Cobra
Just last week I observed ... and joined... a lively Twitter conversation surrounding the stunning Play Golf With Blair campaign for the new COBRA AMP CELL™ driver. It started with one man's tweet questioning the value to the women's game, of female golfers posing in bikinis, and burgeoned into a multi-layered, multi-player discussion.  Some saw the campaign as gratuitous and exploitative while others felt it was empowering and positive. It was an engaging exchange, and one that's probably taken place among numerous groups on numerous networks since Play Golf With Blair was launched.

The thing is, whichever side you come down on in that debate it seems to me the campaign was effective in the sense that it generated the kind of buzz that allows an ad... or an individual... to break through the logjam created by an overabundance of content and reach the consumer; a consumer who might be a golfer or a golf fan and still miss the message thanks to a cacophony of competition and a fragmented media landscape.

The sustainability of a Sex Sells marketing strategy in the golf niche... and in other markets... is often called into question with some arguing that "eventually people are going to realize that the sexiness has nothing to do with product being advertised - it's just meant to attract consumers". However, from what I've seen the effect is frequently quite the opposite.  To that end, I've already booked a Cape Cod golf trip, and I'm now considering the possibility of a new driver. Preferably  one with an attractive orange head.

What do you think? Is the "sex appeal strategy" an effective way to market golf? And do you think it works best for products, players or the game itself?