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East County Thursday, May 20, 2021 6 months ago

In the (Golf) Spotlight

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When a PGA tournament switched venues at the last minute, the Lakewood Ranch area rallied to ensure it made the most from the national TV exposure.
by: Ryan Kohn Sports Reporter

When Collin Morikawa sank his final putt on the No. 18 hole at The Concession Golf Club on Feb. 28 to win the World Golf Champioships-Workday Championship, it signaled the end of a historic week — not just for Morikawa but for the Lakewood Ranch region as well.

Planning the tournament, which was moved to The Concession from Mexico City out of COVID-19 concerns, was a 46-day race for the region to prove itself a capable partner for the PGA Tour. It required a lot of people from different organizations to work together, and the crunch of it all might not have been worth the effort if it weren’t such a rare opportunity to get the region’s brand in the mainstream consciousness with a national TV audience.

Now that the results of the region’s work are coming back, everyone on all sides of the tournament seems to agree: The effort was worth it.

Lisa Barnott, the director of marketing for Lakewood Ranch developer Schroeder-Manatee Ranch, says an additional 3,796 new users came to the Lakewood Ranch website Feb. 18-28 via the golf-related campaign SMR ran on Google.  Those same users are responsible for generating 1,337 conversions during that period, mostly in the form of chat sessions.

Additionally, Barnott says, 13,500 new users came to the website during this period via a direct channel, an increase of 15% over the previous 10-day period. Barnott says she believes many of these users were responding to Lakewood Ranch’s golf-focused print advertisements.

Referral traffic to the Lakewood Ranch Golf and Country Club website also went up 29.4% during the 10-day window spanning both tournaments, generating 203 visits to the membership page, an increase of 27.67%, according to Barnott’s data.

“I think we were satisfied from the beginning,” says Monaca Onstad, the director of community activities for SMR. “The World Golf Championship put the area on the map for events like that. And from a resident standpoint, it was prideful to have that in our backyard. I had many people from outside the area reach out to say how cool it was. I have friends and family looking to buy in Florida telling me they can’t believe stuff like that happens in the Lakewood Ranch area. It’s about the cool factor of it all.”

Onstad says that the event also showed the company how to be an even better partner the next time an event of this size comes to the area — which she believes will happen.

Elliott Falcione, Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau’s executive director, says the tournament was a boon to the county, permeating the thoughts of golf fans.

According to the CVB’s analysis, the tournament was broadcast to more than 100 million homes in the U.S. and 800 million homes worldwide.

In print, online and broadcast media, there were 5,700 mentions of “Bradenton” in conjunction with either “Concession” or “World Golf Championships.” Articles containing those mentions were shared approximately 23,000 times on social media sites. According to the bureau’s data, the estimated economic impact of those shares adds up to $21 million worth of marketing.

“We got what we needed right there, based on our investment,” Falcione says.

Falcione says the tournament also helped diversify the region’s brand. Usually, he says, the area brings soccer and lacrosse tournaments to town at places such as Lakewood Ranch’s Premier Sports Campus or rowing events at Nathan Benderson Park. But you bring a PGA Tour event to town, and suddenly, you brand yourself as a place where professional golf can be played. That is beneficial for hosting future events but also for reeling in people who might want to visit or move to a golf-heavy area.

The feelings on the tournament’s success go both ways. Meghan Costello, who served as the tournament director for the Workday Championship, says everyone in the area made her job as simple as possible despite the shorter-than-usual lead-up to the event. And Falcione says the PGA was impressed with the region’s operations meetings. To only have 46 days to pull off the event and do it like the region did left a great impression.

Falcione says he believes he will soon be working with The Concession again to secure another event of similar scale, though, hopefully, this time the event will be able to have general admission tickets and not just limited guest passes.

And when it comes — it does seem to be “when,” not “if” — everyone will once again be ready to show off everything the Lakewood Ranch region has to offer.

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