Inside the LPGA’s Social Media Strategy and Execution

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*Team Infographics is a proud partner of Front Office Sports

The LPGA showcases the best female golfers in the world with nearly 40 events per year all over the globe. The stories of these golfers and their triumphs are then told to over 1.5 million people every day through the organization’s social media outlets.  

Leading the charge in telling these stories is Tina Barnes-Budd, the organization’s senior director of social media marketing/communications.

Barnes-Budd worked in marketing and promotions for the tour in the early ‘90s and had various stops at marketing agencies for 10 years before returning to the LPGA as the director of marketing in 2004. In 2008, at the dawn of the social media, Barnes-Budd quickly embraced its benefits. That being said, that process was an uphill battle at times.

SEE MORE: Why the LPGA is Investing in a Social Media Tool to Help Golfers Build Their Digital Brands

“In those days, five to 10 percent of my day was dedicated to social. The rest was dedicated to the traditional marketing needs to promote the LPGA,” Barnes-Budd recalls. “As years went on, more and more of my day was being taken by social.  Some thought social media was a fad and wouldn’t last, but I saw it as a great opportunity to push out our great stories.”

Barnes-Budd quickly realized that information and interesting stories about their players could be pushed out to the public without solely having to rely on traditional media to tell their stories for them. Soon after, Barnes-Budd and the LPGA saw how social could be a valuable tool for their athletes to build personal brands. As a result, the LPGA quickly began hosting education workshops on the subject for the players.

SEE MORE: LPGA Helps Golfers Build Brand Muscle on Tour

“In 2009, we had a player meeting, with a segment on social media,” Barnes-Budd stated. “I asked the players how many of them used Twitter, and about a handful of them raised their hands. One of them was Christina Kim. I asked her how she found Twitter beneficial, and she said that it’s a great way to converse with fans, but also a great way to give props to her sponsors. At that point, I think a light bulb went off with a lot of the players. Following that meeting, a ton of players signed up for Twitter and started utilizing it in that manner.”

Following the social media rise with LPGA players and beyond, plus a change in corporate philosophy that came with Mike Whan becoming LPGA commissioner in 2010, social media quickly became a much bigger part of Barnes-Budd’s role.

“At first, Mike Whan admitted that he didn’t understand the power of social media, but what he did understand was that I thought it was a good way to share the LPGA love. I moved from marketing into communications as we felt that it was important to share one voice. That system has seemed to work well.”  

Commissioner Whan has now been on Twitter since 2013 and clearly understands the benefits it can bring to the LPGA. 

This new emphasis on social also led to smaller changes that have had a big impact on the LPGA’s digital efforts. For one, you’ll see things like caddies wearing their player’s Twitter handle on their bibs, thus giving more exposure to the players’ profiles.

SEE MORE: Executive Buy-In Helps Propel Dallas Stars’ Digital Strategy

Plus, the LPGA goes the extra mile with educating players once again through weekly sponsor information that helps players identify correct hashtags and sponsor handles when posting about tournaments. The information also includes the companies’ goals and objectives to help guide the content of the players’ posts. What’s more, nearly every sponsorship that the LPGA has sold recently has contained some element of social media inclusion.

“For most official marketing partners, we have some type of social component. For example, with Kia, we produced 12 ‘Kia Clubhouse Ride’ features where we interviewed players while they were driving a Kia Sarento. We placed four GoPros in the car and conducted a rapid-fire Q and A with each player.  These features are a win-win for both Kia and the LPGA. Kia receives product exposure while we continue to personalize the player’s brand. We typically meet with the sponsor where we learn their objectives and then develop the social ideas. We develop those ideas and then create it, post it, and analyze it for the sponsors. It’s a three-step process.”

From a distance, it may seem like handling all of this, along with covering events, is something that demands a significant amount of manpower. However, the LPGA has just two staffers handling its social presence. One social team member is on site at every domestic event, as well as all majors. 

“We get on site Monday afternoon; Tuesday we hit the ground running with pre-tournament press conferences and special events going on Wednesdays, and then Thursday play starts and continues through the weekend. We cover it to the very end.”

Making the most of a small team is where using certain tools and services come in handy. Notably, the LPGA has partnered with Team Infographics to help streamline part of its content creation process.

“Team Infographics has been absolutely wonderful to work with. What I like about their team is that they really listen to us and what we were looking for. Throughout the years, we’ve created our look for the Tour or specific events and they’re able to take those elements and guidelines and create motion graphics for us that continue our brand look through social. They strive to make it easy for us when we’ve got a thousand other things going on during our tournament coverage. They build a program that’s really user-friendly and quick to use to make a great content.”

They’ve also added the software opendorse to help distribute player content. Opendorse allows Barnes-Budd and the LPGA to deliver rich content to players that they can quickly read, edit and push out to their personal social channels. Content includes video, LPGA.com features, motion graphics and more.

“By using opendorse, we’re able to send players their round highlights, infographics, video features and more.”

This is just one other way that fans will find the players at the heart of the LPGA’s social strategy and, really, at the heart of nearly everything that they do.

*Team Infographics is a proud partner of Front Office Sports

For more examples of the LPGA’s work, follow them on Twitter and Instagram.