⛳️ How Golf Australia rebranded
Josh Marton, GM of Public Affairs and Marketing, on Golf Australia's unique and strategic process to rebrand a National Sports Organisation
👋 G’day! I’m Reuben and welcome to my weekly newsletter. Each week I dig into the goals, habits, routines, and strategies behind the elite operators in the sports industry.
It takes a lot of courage to change the brand of a sport steeped in history. A National Sports Organisation deciding it’s time to rebrand is like me hitting two straight drives in a row… rare. The AFL has had their logo since 2000, Cricket Australia since 2003, and Golf Australia since 2006… until now.
At the end of July 2023, Golf Australia launched its new brand as part of its strategy to encourage more Australians to play golf. But when the flow-on effect is enormous, impacting high performance, participation, commercial partners and events, how do you make sure you get it right?
I asked Josh Marton, GM of Public Affairs & Marketing at the PGA of Australia and Golf Australia, to understand the steps of rebranding Golf Australia and how they approached this significant strategic project.
This is a new favourite addition of mine to the collection of elite operators, and you’ll soon see why below.
Here’s what stood out to me most about Golf Australia’s rebrand:
Focus on unifying Golf Australia and the PGA of Australia
Focus on appealing to new audiences and participants
Considered steps to define the strategy before hitting ‘Go’
They brought in the experts - FutureBrand
They brought everyone on the journey
They took the time to get it right
A fun personality that challenges golf stereotypes
How Golf Australia Rebranded
Josh Marton - GM of Public Affairs & Marketing at the PGA of Australia and Golf Australia
What caused the need for a rebrand of Golf Australia?
Australian Golf is working closer together than ever before. As part of that, our Public Affairs & Marketing team was the first function to come together and represent the peak bodies in the game, including the PGA of Australia, Golf Australia and the WPGA Tour of Australia. Karina Keisler (Interim GM Public Affairs and Marketing July 2021 – Aug 2022) helped drive one of the first strategic projects we embarked on which was understanding how the golf brand ecosystem operated and ultimately discovering how it should look moving forward.
Having taken the project on under one of our department’s strategic pillars of constructing a brand narrative for the industry, we worked with world-leading brand transformation agency FutureBrand (clients include TheHundred, American Airlines and L’Oreal) who performed a deep analysis of our world to prescribe a brand model that had ‘Go Play’ at its heart, ultimately leading to a raft of brand recommendations across the peak bodies and many of its sub-brands.
Having been formed back in 2006 before the first iPhone was developed, one of the key recommendations was to reimagine the Golf Australia brand. Originally formed in 2006 after previously being known as the Australian Golfers Union, we decided to refresh the Golf Australia rebrand to modernise the brand and align with the new vision of the sport which is to encourage more Australians to play golf.
What’s the main goal GA are hoping to achieve with the new brand?
We knew the most important thing to achieve with the Golf Australia brand was to embody where we are going as an industry. That is, to change the perception of the game and make everybody living in Australia feel welcome. We knew it had to be fun and impactful, yet still represent the National Sporting Organisation for Golf.
Golf Australia is responsible for governing, operating, leading and futureproofing golf in Australia. GA leads the relationship with clubs and facilities across the country, manages the amateur game, drives participation programs and runs a high-performance program to ensure we produce as many women and men major winners and Olympic medallists.
It’s important to note that this is directly alongside the PGA of Australia, the peak professional body of golf. The PGA is a member-based organisation with 3000 plus members, ranging from vocational professionals who are experts in golf, along with Tour professionals and leading education for the industry.
What are the key changes to the brand?
Golf Australia’s new brand personality is centred around the notion of ‘Go Play’. That means being enthusiastic and playful, but also being inclusive, accessible, honest and professional.
What did the rebrand process look like? Can you detail the first 3 steps required to get it started?
Step 1: Define your strategy overall. We thought a rebrand was required, but we certainly weren’t the experts in that and needed to be sure it was part of a broader strategy for the game. This took around 3 months.
Step 2: Consult, get buy-in and get approval on the process. We were lucky that the process FutureBrand run was very thorough and included lots of consultation with Golf Australia’s CEO James Sutherland and other key stakeholders. In saying that, there was still lots and lots of feedback from our executive team and the board along the journey. This overlapped with the below and in total would have tallied a few months!
Step 3: Execute it. This was the longest part of nailing it, working closely with our Design Agency in SE Creative. The consultation went up a gear to ensure that all of our key stakeholders were comfortable, with the design and roll-out process taking a considerable amount of time. Without wanting to give myself nightmares and actually go back and look at it, this process was a minimum of 3-months!
Who was involved in creating the new brand internally and externally?
I touched on it a little bit above, but the process started with strategic recommendations handed down by Futurebrand and was then executed by SE Creative. SE Creative was our retainer design agency for the PGA of Australia and they’re now our design agency for Golf Australia too after this piece of work.
In other scenarios, it might just be one agency that executes this. The Golf Australia Executive team were crucial, particularly those in roles where the brand is prominent. In the case of Golf Australia, a rebrand also has a major effect on our brand portfolio. Our flagship participation program MyGolf is a good example of that so there has been lots of conversation with the GM of Participation and ultimately an agreed rebrand for MyGolf (to be revealed next year), along with our High-Performance team given how much exposure the GA brand gets through our Rookie athletes.
In the end, the decision for approval was for the Board, and after two very positive meetings with them, led by Chair Andrew Newbold, we got a pretty quick consensus!
Were there any specific tools or frameworks used in the creation of the brand?
We certainly wanted to embody Golf in the brandmark, and we also didn’t want to lose any equity that Golf Australia had built in close to 20 years. That meant keeping a similar blue colour, and a similar word structure with Golf and Australia. The element that was truly a clean slate was the emblem which included lots of different golf things! The golf swing, a pinflag, a ball, and even a ‘GA’ if you look close enough!
Of all the questions a new brand has to answer, what question do you think is most important to ensure it resonates with the target audience?
Having come from Ehrenberg Bass Institute out of UniSA which is driven by research and philosophy from Byron Sharp, I am biased to think that distinctiveness and likeability are really important. There are lots and lots of brands in the golf world so it wasn’t about being unique, but more about having something that pops and ultimately a brand that has elements people will link to what we do.
What are the initial steps to execute the rollout of the new brand? How have you done this internally versus externally?
Communications planning is critical here, along with ensuring all of the assets are in production and completing a genuine audit of where the old brand exists. Internally, the audit list was the most important thing, along with making sure all of our key stakeholders saw it first. For Golf Australia, that includes all of our member-State boards and Presidents, along with industry partners such as the PGA of Australia.
Externally, it was about creating some fun and exciting content that would excite people and making sure all of the key external touchpoints in our control were updated. Unfortunately we couldn’t do everything but we will get there eventually!
What has been the initial feedback from participants of golf on the rebrand? Can you share some specific examples?
We’ve had some awesome feedback. Given the history of the game, it’s not surprising that it didn’t resonate with everybody but we’ve had an overwhelming amount of positive feedback, particularly from our commercial partners. The highlight was absolutely our friends at Drummond Golf who delivered us some delicious cupcakes with both the GA and Drummonds on them as a congratulations for our work.
We have had some very open conversations with our High-Performance team around the brand appropriately representing our best golfers in the country, and we’re currently working on what that might look like in the future (watch this space!).
What would you say is unique or central to your approach to rebranding GA?
Definitely having a clear overall strategy. There are so many knock-on effects to reshaping a master brand, including the impact it has on everything in the brand family but also where it lives outside of your own environment.
One thing I haven’t mentioned is the alignment the brandmark has with the PGA of Australia. Having used the same design agency, the brands now work brilliantly together and it is helping us drive a much better brand ecosystem for the entire industry.
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