Hop into a golf cart and go behind-the-ropes of the PGA Tour’s Farmers Insurance Open with CEO Marty Gorsich to learn about modern marketing tactics and running a massive operation with tons of moving parts.
On this episode of the Digital Hospitality podcast, host Shawn Walchef gets a first-hand tour of the majestic Torrey Pines Golf Course in San Diego as preparations were underway for the 2020 Farmers Insurance Open PGA Tour tournament.
As Shawn Walchef and Marty Gorsich rode around the beautiful Torrey Pines in a golf cart, they discussed the history of the Farmers Insurance Open, the San Diego-owned golf course, the tournament’s positive impacts on the region, and what it takes to host and promote such a huge event.
“While we’ve got great tournament golf here, and there’s lots to be said on that with Tiger Woods and all the other great athletes, it’s also a huge signature event for our city,” Marty Gorsich said on Digital Hospitality, his first podcast appearance.
Signature San Diego Event:
The Farmers Insurance Open is a major economic driver for the region, bringing in an estimated $50 million annually for San Diego.
The 36-hole Torrey Pines Municipal Golf Course is owned by the city of San Diego and has majestic views of coastal cliffs and the Pacific Ocean.
The tournament isn’t just about golf, it’s also a showcase for all things San Diego, from food, to drink, to surf.
Over the years, the Farmers Insurance Open tournament has transformed and grown to become a can’t miss event in San Diego, with lots of entertainment to offer for all, golf aficionados or not. More than 150,000 spectators come out every year.
It takes a lot of work to not only maintain such a massive venue and operation, but to continually improve it as well. It’s all about long-term planning for the future.
“With the city, we’ve enhanced the look and feel of this course and elevated the experience and the quality of the course and the build out,” Marty Gorsich said about investments to Torrey Pines.
“This is the only event we (San Diego) have that’s on national television, international television actually, on an annual basis.”
Golf Marketing Evolves:
Golf is a traditional sport with lots of history. However, modern marketing requires newer, non-traditional approaches in order to get the word out online, such as using influencer marketing and creating experiential social media opportunities.
“There’s a balance between falling behind and being nimble enough to jump quickly,” Marty Gorsich said about technological advances.
On opening day of the 2020 Farmers Insurance Open, local celebrities, online influencers, and members of the media took part in an Influencer Scavenger Hunt as a fun way to introduce the event and its many unique facets to them and their audiences. A “Social Suite” was even set up for social media influencers to enjoy the day and share glimpses of it online.
The Farmers Insurance Open event has its own official “Social Media Host” with Alissa Kacar, who creates and posts digital media of all sorts about the tournament and her “Beginner’s Journey to Master Golf.” Follow Alissa Kacar on Instagram at @newladygolfer.
When others choose to share your messaging and brand, it’s quite often much more powerful than if you shared it yourself. The most important thing is audience engagement, not audience size. Superfans are very powerful to helping your story get spread online.
“They’re choosing to share multiple things that they saw and did. It’s a picture of them that says, ‘look at how much fun I’m having, wish you were here,’ and creating that fear of missing out (FOMO) and that kind-of longing to see what’s going on.”
Farmers Insurance Open has long history:
The Farmers Insurance Open, San Diego’s PGA Tour stop, is planned and hosted by the Century Club of San Diego, a 501c3 nonprofit that has operated since 1961. The tournament’s goal is to raise money for local charities, schools and military families.
2020 is the 68th year that the PGA Tour has held an event in San Diego and the 53rd time the event was at the Torrey Pines Municipal Golf Course.
Marty Gorsich spent seven years with the Century Club of San Diego before being named as the Farmers Insurance Open CEO. Previously the sports industry professional worked for the San Diego Padres and also stints with the San Diego Sports Commission and the Portland Trail Blazers in the NBA.
As a San Diego native, Marty knows how important the Farmers Insurance Open is to his city.
One thing that has been beneficial to Marty Gorsich is that he doesn’t come from a golf background. That enables him to think outside-the-box in ways that someone with a long relationship to the sport might not be able to imagine.
While it’s important to plan for what’s happening “inside the ropes” of a golf tournament with the players and game, it’s just as important to think about what’s happening “outside the ropes” where the fans’ needs are taken care of, like with transportation, food and drink, restrooms, and plenty of entertainment.
Marketing the event as a social happening gets more attention than promoting it purely as a golf event. Just like a NASCAR event is about more than the race for many of the attendees, so is the Farmers Insurance Open.
“I’m a big sports fan, I’ve worked in sports, but if you said, “Do you want to go to this big tennis match, I don’t know if I’d be excited,” Marty explained. “But if you showed me what Indian Wells is all about and all the other exciting things going on, you’re going to have my interest.”
There have been challenges to adapting their marketing techniques, but it’s something the organization is overcoming very well.
The future is strong for the Farmers Insurance Open thanks to their emphasis on providing Digital Hospitality.
“I grew up with a stigma here of what this event was. Ropes, quiet signs, you couldn’t even bring your phone,” Marty said about the Farmers Insurance Open past before the smart phone revolution changed how people engage with live events.
Now you can absolutely bring your phone, in fact it’s encouraged. When people see an event shared by someone they admire online, that’s powerful.
“We’re pushing apps and social media and there’s so much,” Marty Gorsich said. “You better bring your phone.”
Learn more at https://www.farmersinsuranceopen.com.