How can golf win the 2016 Rio Games?

By: May 11, 2016

We have waited for this moment more than 100 years. It was in 1904 in St. Louis when golf participated last time in the Olympic Games. The return of golf to the Olympic Games became official in September 2009. Now, less than 4 months before the start of the Rio 2016 Olympics, everybody is considering what can the Olympic Games bring to the game of golf or the golf industry.

On the website of the European Golf Course Owners Association (EGCOA), I have already shared some of my thoughts about how can golf clubs and the golf industry take out the most from the participation of golf in the Rio 2016 Olympics to grow the game.  However, since then some other ideas have come to my mind.

Now everybody wishes and hopes that by becoming part of the next Olympic Games, this will help to grow the game globally as it happened to tennis between 2000-2013 where the number of players grew from 60 million to 101 million. It is also a recognition of golf as an athletic sport. Can we exceed this achievement?

The global golf society has mixed feelings about the participation and the value of the Olympics medal. Although Jordan Spieth considers it as the “fifth major”.

As we can see in the golf media, the debate has not calmed down in the last seven years, although the full acceptance of the participation in the Olympic Games could support the success of the bigger cause, the growth and popularity of golf in the world.

It is also not crystal clear to me who will (be eligible) play in Rio: amateur golfers like in other sports or tour professionals like Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Lydia Ko or Rickie Fowler. Common sense would say, amateur golfers. Let’s be honest, who can get more attention?

Some of the well-known tour players can attract non-golfers to watch their game, but the opposite it might not happen. However, if the amateurs cannot get sufficient attention, then how do we want to motivate people to play golf. Isn’t this the Catch 22? So it is urgent to clarify this issue to avoid confusion.

It is an interesting fact that the previous Olympic Games in London had reached globally 3.6 billion people (in 2012, the global population was 6.8 billion people). Just for NBC Universal, the Olympic ad sales were around 1.3 Billion USD. When we are talking about who should participate in Rio 2016 Olympic Games then ad sales revenues are also at stake.

The timing of the Rio 2016 Olympics can cause a little headache for professional golfers:

  • The PGA Championship will be held between July 25-31 at the Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield, New Jersey.
  • On September 27 will kick off the Ryder Cup.

How will a tour player decide where should he participate?

We often discuss how could we promote women’s participation in golf. The coming Olympic Games could give a push to this urgent issue. It would be advisable to achieve an equal number (or near to equal) of the broadcasting of men’s and women’s competitions. Can female golf get the desired attention?

Rio 2016 Olympics golf course

How can golf clubs utilize the inclusion of golf in the Rio 2016 Olympics?

Since the London 2012 Olympic Games, the method how to achieve meaningful customer experience has changed a lot. In the past, to generate favorable customer experience, we meant focusing on touchpoints (the individual transactions through which customers interact with parts of the business).

The drawback of this siloed focus on individual touchpoint is that it misses the bigger picture: the customer’s end-to-end experience. This means to achieve globally the growth and popularity of golf, from the international golf organizations to the local golf clubs we have to look at the customer experience through his/her own eyes to understand how to improve meaningfully the perception and popularity of the game of golf and of course the participation level.

The big question here is whether these organizations and golf clubs have detected the possible customer journeys and what will happen before, during and after the experience of seeing golf in the Olympics Games. In other words, what will their action plan(s) include (not just among your members, but mainly to newcomers) to generate awareness of golf in Rio 2016 Olympics, to keep up the attention during and after the Games?

Can we expect that the Olympic golf players, when they return to their home country, will “walk the talk” and promote the game of golf? It is not enough to see an Olympian on TV! Today, people are demanding more human touch and dialogues with sportsmen and of course with brands.

Will these golfers actively participate in social media during and after the Olympics Games, so people could ask them directly? Below, I will give you some examples of how social technologies can help provide real-time experience.

An interesting challenge for golf clubs and organizations:

Since we are living in an always-on, multichannel and multi-touchpoint world, we have to learn how to manage end-to-end experiences on these new channels, devices, applications and more. The inclusion of golf in the Olympic Games can only help when we are able to handle the challenges of our days. If we are not able to shape a favorable image and interest in golf, then it will be really hard to expect the growth of the game of golf.

It would be advisable if the international and local golf organizations would cooperate with local golf clubs around the world in a joint program.

When we are talking about always-on and multichannel and multi-touchpoint world, we cannot neglect the importance of social technologies.


I think the best example to demonstrate how social technology is shaping customer experience is by showing you the 2014 Ryder Cup case.

For the first time in Ryder Cup history, the organizers implemented Radio Frequency Identification (RFID). Fans attended Gleneagles, Scotland received Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) wristbands to go along with their tickets for entry.

These wearables aimed to serve as the prism in which users can partake in the strategically deployed activities across the golf course, encouraging to share their experiences with social media at the very moment. This is a good way to reach those otherwise would not watch golf or follow up the Ryder Cup event so close. In a brief to expand audience, engagement and fan demographic.

To expand the audience and engagement, live streaming (e.g. Facebook Live) can be helpful for us. Mobile applications like Periscope (over 10 million users and cca. 1.85 million daily active users), Meerkat can enable to have live broadcasting about your event. Troon is already using Periscope to promote their golf courses and events.

So the bottom line is:

  • Should be clarified who and how can participate in the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
  • Women’s games should not be underestimated.
  • Providing meaningful customer experience on an international and local level with the cooperation of international and national golf organizations and local golf clubs.
  • Exploiting social technologies to provide real-time experience and reach those who will not attend the Rio 2016 Olympics.