On With The Show


The show must go on, goes the old Broadway adage. But in the case of the PGA Merchandise Show, its not likely to go on in the same way it has for 50 years.
Phones began to heat up around the industry this week after the 45,000 or so golf pros, company executives, and media who attended the show in Orlando got back to their desks and waded through their mail.
Whos dropping out? was a common question, based on the premise that more defections than Acushnet, Ping and Adams Golf, who skipped this year, are sure to come. Those companies claimed the scattershot setting of a trade show wasnt the best way to spend their marketing dollars. Other companies who did attend this year ' Callaway Golf, Cleveland Golf, Precept and others ' were rumored to be considering defection, or at least to be going over their bills from this Show with the proverbial fine-toothed comb. (Big companies can easily spend $1 million during Merchandise Show week.)
A sluggish economy and an increasingly competitive industry have put an extra-hard squeeze on marketing budgets over the last few years. Companies are thinking twice and three times about whether a trade show, where each company shares the stage with hundreds of others, is a good way to get attention. Bigger companies have started having reporters and key accounts to their headquarters for more targeted ' and often more effective ' wine, dine and hit sessions.
But defections arent certain. Some companies make noise during the show simply to beat back the price for booth space charged by Show owner Reed Exhibition. Others have promised to be back already. A TaylorMade-adidas exec said the company felt it should support the show because (among other reasons) it is the one great annual industry meeting. Everyone whos anyone is in one place for a few days.
That might give Reed some ideas about changing the Show. A demo session the day before the Show gave everyone the chance to hit new product instead of just looking at it; the experiment met with rave reviews. Some have already suggested doing two demo days with two days of meetings and just forgetting about the booth-and-display part. That would be good for everyone except Reed.
Although the Show will need to change, its unlikely to go away. The question is, how relevant will it remain? The West Coast Show, which used to be in Las Vegas in the fall, lost the big equipment manufacturers and became too sedate to draw much attention. Reed will have to work hard to keep the big powers to make sure the same thing doesnt happen in Orlando.
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At the grass roots, its sometimes hard to see why the game isnt growing more. I hit balls this morning at a range not far from my home. Surrounding me on all sides were players of all skill levels getting lessons. Some were aspiring pros; others were kids learning the game.
Listening to the teachers, I heard patience (lots), enthusiasm (more), focus, and animation. It showed in the progress of the students.
Surely it cant be lost on the PGA of America that a corps of involved teachers will help the game. Fortunately, many of them already set that example. And memo to those who are trying to grow golf: Focus on how much fun the lessons can be ' not just the playing.