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?


  1. I'm still having trouble believing there are actually people out there negative enough to reveal publicly that they are not impacted by sex appeal. No, no, I mean, I'm really sorry for them, but I really don't have time for them, so I'll just be proud of you for tolerating them during that twitter exchange!

  2. I have nothing against using sex appeal in advertising, however both of the photos in your post reminded me of the 10 lbs I need to lose (for the first time ever!) before summer and that fact is making me somewhat.. cranky. Damn those brownies and cookies and profiteroles I ate all winter! :(

  3. My feeling is that if Blair was a leading tour player, showing her in a bikini wouldn't bother me as much. If you show off your goods in the way she has, you have got to have real "goods" in the sport for any sustainability and legitimacy. Instead, I think it looks a bit desperate on her part...

  4. One of the reasons I'm a big fan of the LPGA and the Symetra Tour is watching the attractive and fit young women play golf better than I could ever imagine. Nothing sexier than a good looking woman who can bomb it 270 down the fairway. :) They're also getting very liberal in the outfits they let the players wear on the tours also. If it helps draw more fans and sponsors to the great women's game, I'm for it.

  5. I truly can say that my next equipment purchase will not be motivated by "sexy marketing". However, some of the LPGA players like Natalie Gulbis and others have added a certain sexy quality to their tour. You can see it in the Bio's shown now, which, seems to be attracting a bigger audience. Bottom line is the choice marketing decisions are made by what the public seem to want. Today it maybe sex, tomorrow, is anyone's guess.

  6. Addressing your questions regarding "sex appeal strategy," my guess is that it is an effective way to market golf. Also would guess it works best for marketing the professional game. Seems that there are likely to be many potential male viewers and fans (perhaps more female than one would initially think as well) who are lured into observing the game because they find one or more of the female golfers sexy or generally attractive. As long as these feelings remain realistic and non-obsessive, is there really anything wrong with that?

    The "Let's Play" ad featured within your blog is a very powerful image. Still don't think it would cause many to purchase the driver, or even pay much attention to the fact that the driver is being promoted, but it does make me more aware of Ms. Blair O'Neal! :- )

  7. "It's a marketing strategy that's as old as advertising itself." This says it all. I can't imagine a time when using sex for marketing would not work, especially when marketing to a male dominated market.

    I can not speak to the effectiveness of the Cobra campaign with regards to women, but I know for a fact a lot of the guys I play with have mentioned it. I would say that makes it a success.

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  9. FWIW..........some of the most consistently successful CHARITY fundraisers here in soFLA are strip clubs hosting golf tournaments.......the PLAYERs pay, the CHARITY gets funded, the GIRLs have fun, the booze flows, the SPONSORs are recognized, and for some seasons now, everyone comes back again the next year (and no animals were harmed in the whole production)


  10. ".........there are actually people out there negative enough to reveal publicly that they are not impacted by sex appeal."


    apparently you have never met anyone raised strict irish catholic

    just sayin


  11. It sounds like they have the right idea in SoFLA ;}

  12. I think it's a great way to market the game of golf. Most professional golfers are great athletes in their own right and look after their bodies. If advertising and showing off their bodies help promote the sport then i'm all for it.


Lets us know what you think...