What is Golf’s “Pyramid of Influence”?

Is the Pyramid still a viable means of Consumer Segmentation? What other means exist for segmenting the golf equipment market?

There used to be a saying in the golf equipment business, “What’s played on Sunday makes the phone ring (with orders) on Monday” (Note: Just the fact that people were placing orders over the phone should tell you how long ago this was!). For a long time that maxim rang true. Back in the mid ’90’s when I was running marketing for Tommy Armour Golf and we owned Odyssey putters, a certain Hall of Fame golfer won the Masters using a Rossie II Dual Force Mallet with a black Stronomic face insert. The Rossie was innovative and very distinctive (for the time), and the following Monday the phones in the Morton Grove office blew up with orders for tens of thousands of that specific putter for “at once” delivery. Of course we didn’t have enough inventory. No one is ever prepared to catch lightning in a bottle.

So during that spring I lived thru seeing the Pyramid work just the way it was designed. We launched the product to moderate success to the best players in the world. A major tour win propelled demand to stratospheric levels. PGA golf professionals and Off Course Specialty Stores filled their shops with this uniquely designed product (it was the first putter that successfully utilized a face insert), where they were gobbled up. Soon everywhere you looked there were Odyssey Rossie II putters in play, initially by better players, but quickly spreading across the spectrum into all playing levels.

Fast forward a little more than 10 years and I created the first of three “Assessing the Pyramid” studies for the golf equipment industry, investigating and evaluating the Pyramid hypotheses: that successful companies launch product on tour, then market and sell to golf professionals and golf retailers based upon tour success. Better players are initially drawn to play the product based upon tour validation and golf professional/retailer endorsements. These better players in the Pyramid model aren’t significantly different from “brand ambassadors/influencers” in today’s social media world, providing credibility and authenticity to the brand, which translates to broader usage across the whole market, ultimately driving sales and market share. Does the Pyramid still work the way it did for Odyssey (and many other brands) in marketing to the golf industry? We thought we’d investigate it again and see just how significant the traditional Pyramid remains, or are there better means for segmenting the consumer golf market.

On June 18, 2019 Golf Datatech released the third edition of the Pyramid study. In this edition we investigate and analyze a wide range of topics, including media usage, how golfer collect and use data gathered prior to purchase, brand usage, channel preferences, current financial status and economic standing of the various subsegments, etc. It’s truly an all encompassing study delving into the mindset of the Serious Golfer, the player that plays and spends disproportionately on the game and on equipment.

As for the “Traditional Pyramid”, which is driven by player ability, not only do lower handicaps play and spend more, data from the Pyramid Study suggests they’re likely to be more outspoken with their opinions and wield influence over others on golf and equipment. So focusing on these highly engaged golfers is reasonable and logical, however since the first study was completed in 2007 (before the Great Recession), we’ve seen some significant changes in their level of impact.

In future posts in the Pyramid Series we’ll investigate some of these changes and their implications to brand positioning and marketing in equipment.

Key Statistics from the 2019 Assessing the Pyramid

Sample Size: 3,000 Serious Golfers

Handicap Segmentation:  5 & under, 6-10, 11-15, 16-20, 21+

Average Rounds Played = 60 rounds in the past year

Mean Household Income = $163K

Mean Handicap of the Full Sample = 15

Lowest Handicap Ever Attained = 11

Segmentation Cross Tabs Beyond the Traditional (Handicap): Leading Edge Innovators, Alpha Buyers (High frequency purchasers), Opinion Influencers and Brand Loyalty, as well as tradition Golf-o-graphic cross tabs including:  Income Age, Facility Played and Gender

Anyone interested in purchasing the full Pyramid Study to aid in segmenting the market (750+ Pages of Data plus analysis) may go to golfdatatech.com where it can be ordered directly or email info@golfdatatech with questions.

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