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PGA Show Is It Still Relevant

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With the industry's biggest show just over a month away.  John Barba takes a great inside look at how some of the biggest companies view the show, and why they still exhibit and their thoughts on the future of the show.   

Barb's is the best at letting MGS readers get first hand insight from the Titans of the industry, and he delivers full scale with this piece. 

https://mygolfspy.com/is-the-pga-merchandise-show-still-relevant/

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Great read, one of the best I've seen on MGS. Thanks!

This tussle between old school marketing and the new Millenial/social media world has been/is going on across most industries. And many industries, definitely including golf, are being supported by an audience with a steadily increasing median age. So supporting older participants works in the short term, and may be the only option today, while the next generations have mostly tuned out a while ago. There is definitely no easy answer for those who might be quick to criticize, but there will come a day soon where Boomers are no longer enough to sustain golf and other industries. What then?

If you want to see what doesn't work, follow the exact same arc with sailing (I've followed sailing and golf for 40-50 years).

  • The median age of participants has gone from mid 30's to late 50's.
  • "Of the 350,000 kids in programs today (2014), 95% quit by age 25."
  • Participation is off by more than 50%, now vs the peak in the 70's.
  • Well over half the OEMs from the 70's are gone and they won't be back, what remains has downsized dramatically and largely moved production offshore.
  • Trade shows are much smaller and less often. Many have closed shop.
  • The Olympic/pro level and the wealthy are still vibrant and spending, but there's not much of an audience supporting the industry, and those who are, are dying off daily...
Edited by Middler
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I spent the time reading through the article, and it's a good read, with I am sure a ton of work involved.  My one take away is the way this comes across, basically as elitist, when the part where they talk about possibly inviting the average consumer to the show.

There's this huge divide between manufacturers, retailers, and pros, and the general public.  Maybe it's just my perception, but when you guard information from the public, when they are spending a ton of money on your product and treat this like an invite only thing, it simply feeds the perception of golf being an elitist sport.

And a million dollars for a company like Taylor Made to attend this show seems completely absurd to me.  Maybe it's just my naivete and blue collar bank account, but the more they talk about money spent like that on a trade show just reinforces the elitist nature of this entire sport and industry.  The haves get richer while the have nots (me) get poorer.

And I can think of a lot better uses for $1 million then on the PGA of America and their ilk who are seemingly enriching themselves out of guilt from manufacturers and other vendors, like they said, "we feel like we have to be there even if we can't tell you what the ROI is."

If I was running a company and you told me that I would not pay to support the trade show.  Show me the ROI or you can forget it.  Personally I think it's an excuse for a bunch of people from the north to come down to Orlando and screw off and play some golf, and get to write it off on the company or club they work for.  And honestly, who needs a trade show to do that.

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^^^ Maybe all true, but costly trade shows aren’t unique to golf, most industries have something similar, some are way more costly than golf. And they’re boondoggles by definition, that’s not a revelation, that’s a big part of the reason trade shows exist. That’s how business was conducted, and many key industry players are still proudly very old school...

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17 hours ago, Middler said:

^^^ Maybe all true, but costly trade shows aren’t unique to golf, most industries have something similar, some are way more costly than golf. And they’re boondoggles by definition, that’s not a revelation, that’s a big part of the reason trade shows exist. That’s how business was conducted, and many key industry players are still proudly very old school...

I'd agree - trade shows are traditionally part of your cost of doing business. In the plumbing and heating business, we have one huge national trade show and a crap-ton of minor national shows as well as regional shows. On one had, you do try to generate leads, but the real challenge is actually following up on those leads. Getting the leads is easy - doing something with them is hard, because as a manufacturer you're doing more with less as it is. Relationships, exposing potential customers to what you have and to remind your customer base that you're a serious player is the reason you're there, but if you can figure out how to figure out the ROI on that, you're 5 steps ahead of everyone else. 

So many of the people I interviewed for the article used the word optics, and it's a very descriptive term - both in terms of the showing the world the relative health of the industry. Can you imagine the hue and cry if three of the Big 5 skipped the show? As you know, the golf media and self-proclaimed experts everywhere LOVE a good feeding frenzy. "OMG - TaylorMade, Titleist AND PING aren't at the show? The industry's dying!!!"  A perceived healthy industry is good for every business that exhibits at the show.  

Optics apply to individual companies -- you can tell the rumor mill surrounding TaylorMade is churning the waters already. Skipping the show won't be fatal though, after all - they're still TaylorMade. But if Wilson or Srixon skipped the show? These guys must be struggling.  

Hogan is an interesting test case - their eCommerce approach means the PGA Show is really meaningless to them. They'll have people attending the show and meeting with media and suppliers, simply because everyone will be in Orlando so it's convenient and cost-effective for them, but exhibiting would have no value whatsoever for them. 

It'll be interesting to see how New Level makes out. Eric isn't looking for retail channels, but he is expanding his base of fitters and PGA Pros. He told me he'd prefer to do just the demo day, but Reed says you can't have demo day unless you're also on the show floor, so he'll only be on the floor. My good buddy Seliano from Italy will be there this year with his Mati Putters - it'll be good to see him (he's a paisan!) and I hope he's able to create a market for himself in the US. 

Lynx is another interesting case. They had a very large booth last year to try to jump start its US business. They struck a deal with Dallas Golf and now have a US-based PR firm helping them. They'll be exhibiting again this year and will be at Demo Day, so it'll be interesting to see what they have and how they do. Rumor mill says they have a new driver they're very excited about. 

So yeah, it's relationships and meetings where all the people who can make things happen for smaller companies are in one place. As long as that dynamic exists, and the optics are important enough to the big guys to keep paying to anchor the show, I don't see the show going anywhere. It will evolve though, it has to.

One source said if the PGA won't include consumers, there's an opportunity for someone to organize a major, consumer-focused Demo Day event that brings the energy of the PGA Show to the consumer. Question is - who would that be, and is that something you guys would consider trekking to?

 

 

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Really enjoyed the article and the perspectives here.

I had the opportunity to attend the PGA show based on a right place right time kind of scenario. Part of the agreement for getting me in was i had to help setup and tear down the booth.

From a consumer/ golf junkie perspective I had a great time and would do it again in a heart beat. I did get some freebies, but i always told the people in the booth I was just looking and didn’t want to consume their time since I wasn’t an industry person. The last day of the show was great due to the lack of crowds. My favorite part was the small lesser known trying to get started type products. I can see products from the big names in most any golf store. But the small guys may only be internet based or not easy to find unless you know they exist.

Would I go to a consumer version of the show? If the location and price was good. Location meaning I didn’t have to fly or pay for hotel.

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58 minutes ago, GolfSpy Barbajo said:

One source said if the PGA won't include consumers, there's an opportunity for someone to organize a major, consumer-focused Demo Day event that brings the energy of the PGA Show to the consumer. Question is - who would that be, and is that something you guys would consider trekking to?

I'd be interested if PING was there.

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1 hour ago, GolfSpy Barbajo said:

I'd agree - trade shows are traditionally part of your cost of doing business. In the plumbing and heating business, we have one huge national trade show and a crap-ton of minor national shows as well as regional shows. On one had, you do try to generate leads, but the real challenge is actually following up on those leads. Getting the leads is easy - doing something with them is hard, because as a manufacturer you're doing more with less as it is. Relationships, exposing potential customers to what you have and to remind your customer base that you're a serious player is the reason you're there, but if you can figure out how to figure out the ROI on that, you're 5 steps ahead of everyone else. 

So many of the people I interviewed for the article used the word optics, and it's a very descriptive term - both in terms of the showing the world the relative health of the industry. Can you imagine the hue and cry if three of the Big 5 skipped the show? As you know, the golf media and self-proclaimed experts everywhere LOVE a good feeding frenzy. "OMG - TaylorMade, Titleist AND PING aren't at the show? The industry's dying!!!"  A perceived healthy industry is good for every business that exhibits at the show.  

Optics apply to individual companies -- you can tell the rumor mill surrounding TaylorMade is churning the waters already. Skipping the show won't be fatal though, after all - they're still TaylorMade. But if Wilson or Srixon skipped the show? These guys must be struggling.  

Hogan is an interesting test case - their eCommerce approach means the PGA Show is really meaningless to them. They'll have people attending the show and meeting with media and suppliers, simply because everyone will be in Orlando so it's convenient and cost-effective for them, but exhibiting would have no value whatsoever for them. 

It'll be interesting to see how New Level makes out. Eric isn't looking for retail channels, but he is expanding his base of fitters and PGA Pros. He told me he'd prefer to do just the demo day, but Reed says you can't have demo day unless you're also on the show floor, so he'll only be on the floor. My good buddy Seliano from Italy will be there this year with his Mati Putters - it'll be good to see him (he's a paisan!) and I hope he's able to create a market for himself in the US. 

Lynx is another interesting case. They had a very large booth last year to try to jump start its US business. They struck a deal with Dallas Golf and now have a US-based PR firm helping them. They'll be exhibiting again this year and will be at Demo Day, so it'll be interesting to see what they have and how they do. Rumor mill says they have a new driver they're very excited about. 

So yeah, it's relationships and meetings where all the people who can make things happen for smaller companies are in one place. As long as that dynamic exists, and the optics are important enough to the big guys to keep paying to anchor the show, I don't see the show going anywhere. It will evolve though, it has to.

One source said if the PGA won't include consumers, there's an opportunity for someone to organize a major, consumer-focused Demo Day event that brings the energy of the PGA Show to the consumer. Question is - who would that be, and is that something you guys would consider trekking to?

 

 

It was a great article and I can see where optics plays a role both to other brands and the industry but also to the public. Like you mentioned someone not coming raised eye brows.  I think brands are in a tough spot because release cycles have changed plus social media gets the word out early and quickly. Then the different golfing seasons around the country and world they can hold off and reduce the climates like Florida where it’s now prime golf season.  They are going to need a way as an industry to find away to make it efficient and effective for everyone.

someone like new level is at a disadvantage because they can’t afford to pay to man demo day while someone builds the showroom display.  

As for the opportunity to do a consumer type demo day it sounds like a good idea but I would imagine it can get crowded and trying to fit numerous brands into ones demo schedule and not be tired by the end of the last company one hits.  

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Trade shows can be a bit of a self licking ice cream cone. Still, just like most businesses it’s not one thing but instead the sum of all things that moves the needle in a positive direction. The PGA Show officially introduces new equipment to the market place and reaffirms the value of the old standard equipment. It also serves as a networking environment for all levels of businesses to interact and develop the beginnings of a relationship.

 

While the WWW is an incredible tool nothing can ever fully replace the value of Eye to Eye; Hand in Hand interaction.

 

 

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On 12/13/2018 at 4:51 PM, Middler said:

^^^ Maybe all true, but costly trade shows aren’t unique to golf, most industries have something similar, some are way more costly than golf. And they’re boondoggles by definition, that’s not a revelation, that’s a big part of the reason trade shows exist. That’s how business was conducted, and many key industry players are still proudly very old school...

This is 100% true. I work in the trade show industry. There are a lot of industries that spend more than $1 million on shows. Trade shows are changing with the times... interactive dispays, VR tech, etc.... they aren't going away any time soon.

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This is 100% true. I work in the trade show industry. There are a lot of industries that spend more than $1 million on shows. Trade shows are changing with the times... interactive dispays, VR tech, etc.... they aren't going away any time soon.

I don't know if it's still being held. But the annual Suoer Show for apparel and shoe companies in the early 90's was unbelievable. Rebock, Adidas and Nike would have booths each year that makes Callaways PGA booth look like a toy box. Each year they would try to one up the other by size, giveaways and celebs and athletes that would show up.

This was pre internet as it's known today and tons of business would get written.


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5 hours ago, Golfspy_CG2 said:


I don't know if it's still being held. But the annual Suoer Show for apparel and shoe companies in the early 90's was unbelievable. Rebock, Adidas and Nike would have booths each year that makes Callaways PGA booth look like a toy box. Each year they would try to one up the other by size, giveaways and celebs and athletes that would show up.

This was pre internet as it's known today and tons of business would get written.


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I've worked in the trade show industry for 26 years. I've seen a lot of changes over the years. It's gone from two floor exhibits to sprawling 60' x 100' layouts to fabric covered aluminum frame exhibits, and back again full circle. We've gone from Polar Motion displays to touch screen monitor displays, flourescent lighting to LED lighting..... Virtual reality is becoming huge in the industry.

My company does the Goodyear Dealer Conference every year. It takes up an entire show hall. 

Everyone needs to advertise, so I would guess things will just keep progressing, but I doubt trade shows will go the way of the dinosaurs...lol.

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^^^ Maybe all true, but costly trade shows aren’t unique to golf, most industries have something similar, some are way more costly than golf. And they’re boondoggles by definition, that’s not a revelation, that’s a big part of the reason trade shows exist. That’s how business was conducted, and many key industry players are still proudly very old school...

I have not heard the “Boondoggle” term since I retired.


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On 12/15/2018 at 6:30 PM, Rickp said:


I have not heard the “Boondoggle” term since I retired.


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I didn't know you worked in government 😉.

As for the article, it was interesting.  I also think @RickyBobby_PR captured my thoughts on how social media has influenced how these shows are operated and their value - to both the supplier and consumer.

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This year will make my 18th year attending the PGA show.

We are mom and pop and in the beginning we did write orders there. Mostly because our rural location was not on the company reps travel path, in the beginning.

The internet made a lot of the things smaller. meeting the people and getting a read on the company wasn't one of them.  There will always be that head pro that might feel another club company or another apparel company is better for the club or course. What better way to get a feel for the company you are getting ready to do business with than meeting the people in charge and your future rep.  Because just like there is a relation between you and your customer there is a relation between you and your supplier.

To the point because of these relations, I've met several industry leaders and learned tons just from face to face conversations. In fact I'm in the Callaway picture in the article talking to Harry lol. I've also learned more about the products than a PDF or flier would provide. This makes for a better conversation when a golfer comes into the shop.

Another way to connect with the golfing community We did YouTube videos on the show (among other things) that did bring in some folks and more business as the year went on. So,,,, we will be doing that again this year. scheduling times making up questions etc.

The show was touted as a professional show for professionals, it should be.. If you think for a minute the consumer is not getting in you would be mistaken. You have a picture of a BOY shaking hands with the shark in the article!  Nothing is more distracting than a guy wearing a John Deere hat with his son asking what's the best price he can get on a new club while trying to make a relationship with a supplier. I say that because it happened last year.  

If the show turns to that direction to include consumers, that would be their choice and I hope, as in the article, there is a separate day so the industry professional can get business done, the consumer can scratch one of the bucket list and enjoy Orlando.

 

 

 

 

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I believe all the professional shows are relevant. I have attended the expo of my industry many years in a row and there is always something new to learn. You have to dig for it sometimes, but those nuggets are well worth it.

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Really a great read.  As a consumer who is not in the industry, I would love to be able to attend this show. Ive been apart of other industy trade shows and understand why they need their own spaces to work their magic with face to face interactions. 

I do feel that maybe expanding this show a day or opening it up for one day would be very beneficial to not only the consumer, but to many of the vendors. Ive scanned the vendor list and there are a ton of businesses on that list that most of us have never heatd of. Even if a show was put together for the consumer, there is no way that it would be of this magnitude. 

Is the local driving range owner and emoyees considered "industry"? Cart boy at the local club? 

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Really a great read.  As a consumer who is not in the industry, I would love to be able to attend this show. Ive been apart of other industy trade shows and understand why they need their own spaces to work their magic with face to face interactions. 
I do feel that maybe expanding this show a day or opening it up for one day would be very beneficial to not only the consumer, but to many of the vendors. Ive scanned the vendor list and there are a ton of businesses on that list that most of us have never heatd of. Even if a show was put together for the consumer, there is no way that it would be of this magnitude. 
Is the local driving range owner and emoyees considered "industry"? Cart boy at the local club? 


Having some knowledge of trade shows you probably just need a legitimate business card/business address.

I'd agree on the consumer part - make it one day extra and open for us non-golf professionals.


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Having some knowledge of trade shows you probably just need a legitimate business card/business address.

I'd agree on the consumer part - make it one day extra and open for us non-golf professionals.


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I was invited to attend the show years ago but work got in the way. Wrong decision, I should have found a way.


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On 1/3/2019 at 12:20 AM, McGolf said:

This year will make my 18th year attending the PGA show.

 Nothing is more distracting than a guy wearing a John Deere hat with his son asking what's the best price he can get on a new club while trying to make a relationship with a supplier. I say that because it happened last year.  

 

 

 

 

So much this!!  I must have been right behind you in line, as I'm pretty sure I saw the same man and kid.  

There is so much demand for time from all the OEM people, it's very hard for a legit customer to get time with them as it is, and to have guys like that and then the tote bag freebie seekers walking about, it becomes even harder. 

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