Captivate and Partners Swing Big With Golf Car Ad Opportunity

By Captivate InSites Archives
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As a professional golfer, Greg Norman has 89 worldwide wins including the 1986 and 1993 Open Championships (a.k.a. the British Open). As an entrepreneur, he is equally accomplished with a portfolio of companies including apparel, interior design, real estate, wine, golf course design, golf car technology and a start-up disruptor golf tour, LIV Golf.

Launched in 2017, the golf car venture, Shark Experience presented by Verizon, was a collaborative effort between Greg Norman Company (GNC), Verizon and Club Car to create an innovative and disruptive golf technology aimed at revolutionizing the game. The cars leverage Verizon's 4G LTE network to give golfers a connected experience, enabling music and sports streaming, dynamic yardage, Greg Norman tips, clubhouse connectivity and more.

The idea for delivering a brand message to a golf car is not new. It might be accurate to say past attempts did not thrive because the time had not yet come. Shark Experience, however, brought together several key partners such as GNC, Club Car and Verizon, along with experienced technology and advertising partners Edison Interactive and Captivate, to create a premier platform unlike any other.

"It's not your father's golf game," said Lorenzo Papa, Chief Revenue Officer at Captivate, whose network of digital out-of-home (DOOH) screens are found in the lobbies and elevators of office buildings and apartments. "Younger generations of golfers expect instant access to music, videos and information. Shark Experience taps into that."

What's more, "the pandemic drove people back to the golf course," Papa said -- and some numbers back him up. According to the National Golf Foundation, rounds increased nearly 19.5% in 2020 versus 2019. Last year growth slowed but was still up 5.5% over 2020. "We've had the highest number of rounds played in the last 35 years," he noted. "With changing views on media and a younger audience picking up the game, the time was right to enhance the golf experience."

Edison Interactive, the exclusive technology partner for Shark Experience, received strategic investments from Norman and David Chessler Holdings in 2019. Both Norman and Chessler also joined the board. Founded by Jeremy Ostermiller and Nick Stanitz-Harper in 2016, Denver-based Edison became a leading content management system for digitally connected devices including golf cars, buses, rental vehicles, hotel rooms and more.

Applying these systems to the golf course is a natural extension of Edison's capabilities. Ostermiller explained that while Shark Experience leans into the interests of younger players, it bears in mind golf traditionalists who relish being outdoors and escaping from the connected world. "Since the beginning, Greg's tagline for the business was: 'Your game. Your way.' Each feature is an option, so we're careful not to oversaturate their attention spans," he said.

Access to the courses comes from an exclusive partnership with Club Car, a leading manufacturer of golf cars, which are used in over 6,000 of the 16,000 golf courses in the U.S. Today, Shark Experience is available on over 360-plus courses and about 35,000 golf car screens. And there's plenty of room for growth.

"The opportunity to scale is significant," Ostermiller asserted. "The goal, from the very beginning, has been to get to 200,000 screens in the next three to five years."

Captivate was brought on to maximize the opportunity for advertisers. "Shark Experience provides an opportunity for brands to reach high-value consumers and business decision-makers at natural pause points throughout their round," Papa explained. "On average, two-plus times per month, a golfer is spending four-and-a-half hours on the course. Sixty percent of the time is spent in the golf car. The numbers multiply quickly. We're already delivering 166 million impressions a month over 90 markets."

Among the B2B advertiser brands on board are IBM, Salesforce and Cisco. High-end consumer clients include Lexus, Porsche and Chanel. There are also clients focused on sports gambling and financial service firms, notably new cryptocurrency exchanges.

The CPM (cost per thousand) ad rates are more attractive than other media opportunities that have a similar audience, according to Papa. Brands can also buy a share of voice from 15% to 100%. "Most brands are buying about 30% share of voice," he said.

Shark Experience uses the Google Ad Manager server, "so we're able to give advertisers all the reporting that they are accustomed to," Ostermiller noted.

Edison also inked programmatic advertising agreements this year with Vistar Media, Hivestack and Place Exchange. "What's really unique about adding programmatic capabilities is now you're able to reach a golfer on the golf course in real time," Ostermiller said. "Programmatic makes it incredibly accessible for advertisers to buy on any budget."

There are other new elements. "We just got measurement verification from Comscore," Papa said. "Starting [this] month [May], they're going to be validating all of the impressions that come out of the platform. We also partnered with Neustar to power our audience-planning tool so we can identify specific courses that over-index for brands' targeting objectives."

"To a Lexus or a Porsche, we can say, 'You may have initially asked only for private courses, but here's a handful of public courses that the data says over-index for the actual audience you're looking for,'" Papa added. "Brands appreciate that."

All told, it's a nice match play.

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