Viewers of FX and National Geographic Channel are about to see something they probably aren't used to: golf ads.
The upcoming spots are by the United States Golf Association, which has gained ad inventory across an array of networks owned by 21st Century Fox. The supply is a result of the deal the USGA struck with Fox Sports in 2013 that includes broadcast rights to the U.S. Open beginning this summer. Previously -- when the tournament was on NBC -- the association mostly confined its ads to sports programming.
Beginning in early May and leading up to the U.S. Open in late June, six new ads will run dozens of times across Fox, FS1, FS2, FX, FXX, Fox Business, MundoFox and National Geographic Channel, according to the USGA. And as it reaches a wider audience, the USGA will make an emotional appeal that seeks to position golf as a social game accessible to the everyman. The campaign, called "A Lot to Love," is by DDB, New York. One ad (above) includes scenes of men and women of various ages and backgrounds, including construction workers knocking golf balls around in a warehouse.
"We wanted to make sure that the game came across as welcoming and accessible," said Dave Aznavorian, the USGA's senior director of marketing. Previous ads had been more single-issue focused, like encouraging time-crunched players to "Play 9" instead of 18 holes.
The USGA declined to detail the value of the ad buy other than to confirm that it was included in the deal with Fox. The 12-year agreement makes Fox and Fox Sports 1 the home of the U.S. Open as well as other tournaments including the U.S. Women's Open and Senior Open Championships. The USGA has not made the dollar terms public. Golf.com has reported the deal as being worth about $100 million a year, roughly double what NBC paid.
The USGA campaign comes amid plenty of negative press about how the golf industry has struggled to lure millennials. Critics have described golf as too time-consuming, expensive and exclusive for younger generations.
Golf participation fell by 13% for people ages 18-34 from 2009 to 2013, The Wall Street Journal reported last year, citing data from the Sports & Fitness Industry Association.
In response, golf brands have launched campaigns specifically targeting millennials. For instance, Golf Digest in late March debuted a digital/mobile/video series called "Why Golf" that seeks to "highlight the reasons why athletes and millennials play golf." It includes celebrities from action sports such as skateboarding, Supercross and surfing.
The USGA campaign, by contrast, includes people of all ages."We wanted to show all generations, inclusive of millennials, and how they engage with golf -- to show that it really is everyone's game," Mr. Aznavorian said.