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A dozen ski marketing insights on a dozen competitors’ magazine print ads.

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The other day I was waiting, as humans are wont to do, on a couch with a stack of magazines next to me.

Two of those magazines were about golf. And one of those two had nearly 20 golf resort print ads crammed into its pages.

I was surprised by what I learned from seeing so many unique marketing approaches in such rapid succession, so I started taking pictures of the pages.

Here are a few thoughts on how golf sells their sport’s vacations versus us.

The appeal to the “pure” aspects of a sport is fascinating to me because not only does skiing try to do the same thing, but the definition of pure varies so widely. It’s like a bottled water ad I saw in an airport recently, “Pure, crisp water” for water that had minerals added for taste. Likewise, the appeal to “pure” is likely more about the feeling associated with the word than actually tying it to specific meaning.

Though it may not look it at first, this feels very much like a ski resort (or golf resort) home page in that it starts talking under the assumption that the reader is already sold on the product-type and simply needs to narrow down their selection. “Tennis, dining, golf…checks all the boxes.” No attempt is really made to sell the idea of a golf resort, just their golf resort.

The Reserve
This was one of the only photos that didn’t use a shot taken at golden hour and, quite simply, it stood out for that reason. That’s not to say that it isn’t a great shot, but the difference in feeling and tone is stark. Harsh shadows, bright sun, faded sky, a good combination but definitely carries a different emotion.

The Landings / Emerald Club
Like having Tom Wallisch or Lindsay Vonn in your ad, tis resort leans heavily on the names of their courses’ designers to add weight and importance to their message. This was one of just a few other photos that used daytime lighting and, again, the feeling was distinctly different. The shadows are slightly longer, but still lack the soft edges of twilight. They went all-in on a photo of a single hole, but the quality of the photo doesn’t seem to match the names attached to it. Sort of like using an EpicMix photo of Lindsay for an ad.

The Virginian
This was another that had a very similar feel to a lot of resorts that take the “what’s your story” angle to their marketing. A quick list of amenities, but clearly the focus here is on families having a place where they can be together and do things they’ll remember forever. Heavy on emotion.

Again, similar to ski, this is one of those taglines that is born within a motivation quote. “Life inspired” leaves the reader to insert their own version of what that could mean, but does feel a bit vague even for that effort. You can’t see it on the left, but they tout a “Golf Inc” award they won just as you’d see a ski mag award-symbols on a Whistler or Jackson or Deer Valley ad.

A really beautiful shot with a nicely designed layout, the ad takes the double-whammy approach. Light on details about the complex itself (though you’ve probably started to notice that a bulleted list of amenities is pretty stock in this industry), the ad then has two calls to action. The first, “call for pricing” after a low (but not too low) dollar amount for those ready to buy. The second, “win the trip of a lifetime” for those who may not be. If you’re going to have a CTA in a print ad (and not just plant branded seeds) I like it, but wonder if trying to show an actual dollar offer was the right move.

Villas of Grand Cypress
Here’s where we see a lot of the previous elements combined into a very safe print ad bet. Big name (Jack), low (but not too low) price, award they’ve recently won (TA #1 in Orlando), CTA with phone + URL (and a name, which I like), all overlaid on a shot across their course at twilight. And notice their headline? Yep, this is what we’re competing against during the winter.

St Kitts
While not a single resort, I really like this one because it highlights something golf resorts seem to have discovered and use over and over again: partners. In a lot of these ads you’ll see that word used to frame not only offers, but the experience they are trying to sell. Like ski, we like to suggest that this sport is best experienced when you’re not alone but doing it with someone else. Also strong is the ability to name a specific, all-inclusive price that no ski resort, as far as I know, has successfully implemented.

Wickenburg Ranch
I really like this one. Instead of a cheesy tagline or pitch, it uses someone else’s words from an online review that tell the story through a slightly more authentic voice. Combined with a really nice shot of the course, an award, and a bold statement (“the only ‘must play’ in Arizona”), I found myself thinking about this course much more than the others after the fact.

Pebble Beach
With a brand like Pebble’s, you don’t have to say much. And they didn’t. An incredible shot of the course and ocean, a reminder of their standing as the #1 public course in the country, and a few offers to plant seeds about not just dreaming about going to Pebble Beach, but actually doing it. Click on the larger version and read the copy, pretty strong stuff.

The Cliffs
Let’s close this out with Pinehurst. This is another course steeped in history and tradition. I sometimes discount the value of the 30-40 word blocks of copy in print ads, but this is another strong contender. It gets you to imagine something and, even more, imagine being part of something bigger than yourself and not available at other resorts. Light focus on what their course looks like, heavy focus on what it means and feels like to play.

Using tools and software to track direct competitors is one thing, but I always find it helpful to keep an eye on indirect competitors as well. Hopefully this helps in that regard.

About Gregg & SlopeFillers
I've had more first-time visitors lately, so adding a quick "about" section. I started SlopeFillers in 2010 with the simple goal of sharing great resort marketing strategies. Today I run marketing for resort ecommerce and CRM provider Inntopia, my home mountain is the lovely Nordic Valley, and my favorite marketing campaign remains the Ski Utah TV show that sold me on skiing as a kid in the 90s.

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