The US Open is getting a brand new look – emphasis on brand.
At the USGA Annual Meeting on Saturday at Pinehurst Resort, the governing body’s leadership debuted a marketing campaign, dubbed “From Many, One” that aims to strengthen the communication and messaging of its most prominent – and lucrative – championship around a handful of core principles and traits that best exemplify the spirit of the event.
More than a year ago, the USGA began surveying fans, players, volunteers, sponsors, representatives of host courses and media members to identify key attributes that uniquely define the championship. Many of them are familiar to knowledgeable golf fans: the US Open is seen as the toughest tournament in the world. It’s also one that’s uniquely open to any top amateur or professional who wants to enter. It’s played on America’s greatest courses. And its run by the USGA, a point that seems obvious but isn’t always understood by casual golf fans. (Yearly USGA research says that only 20-30 percent of fans understand who runs any of the four Majors.)
From this, the association enlisted Zambezi, a California-based company, to help create a brand platform that incorporated these themes. “From Many, One” plays off the American motto “E Pluribus Unum”, and tries to crystalise the idea that out of the nearly 10,000 hopeful golfers who enter the event, each with their own unique stories and dreams of one day being the lone champion who emerges each year.
To launch the brand initiative the USGA is using actor Don Cheadle in a series of promotional videos that attempt to drive home the “From Many, One” theme. Additionally, past Open champions Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson and Tiger Woods, among others, have filmed spots that discuss their perspectives on what it takes to win the US Open.
The campaign will extend into print and digital advertisements, and will be a jumping off point for the association’s social and digital offerings. It also will be prominent on-site at Winged Foot Golf Club for this year’s US Open in June, according to Craig Annis, chief brand officer of the USGA.
“Our goal was to develop a distinct and powerful brand platform that allows us to celebrate what makes our championship unique and to tell the stories that drive our audiences to attend, watch and engage with the US Open year-round,” Annis said.
“The US Open is more than a golf event, it’s more than a test or evaluation, it’s an experience that brings people together to share in the electricity that comes from players pushing themselves beyond their limits to achieve their dreams,” said Mike Davis, chief executive of the USGA. The new program will allow the association to share this and celebrate the players, fans and courses involved.
Among those surveyed were 44 tour pros, including 13 past US Open and Women’s Open champions. “We heard good things, bad things, things we should improve upon and things they love,” Annis said.
According to Annis, this is the first time the association has embarked on a brand campaign outside of ticket-sales initiatives for individual USGA events. But there is a clear reason behind putting time and resources towards bolstering the US Open: the championship generates nearly 75 percent of the USGA’s overall revenue, roughly $US165 million. Of that money, $US80 million goes to the conduct of the championship, $US15 million to the players with the remaining $US70 million used to fund other USGA golf research and initiatives.
“The success of the championship,” Annis said, “directly impacts the work we do to support millions of golfers who enjoy the game.”
The hope, then, is that a little investment now will pay off down the road.