The Wells Fargo Championship coming to Wilmington is more than a golf tournament.
It’s more than a week of golf lovers pouring money into the region’s economy.
The tournament is really more of a regional development tool of sorts – at least that’s what local officials and business leaders are hoping.
As the Wilmington Chamber of Commerce puts it, the championship is “a springboard for economic growth and prosperity,” and for local officials that aspect of the tournament is already underway.
“With the eyes of the world on our region, the Wells Fargo Championship provides a unique opportunity to market our competitive advantages to help attract new businesses, entrepreneurs and skilled workforce,” chamber board chairman Charlie Mattox said. “While it’s important that we don’t miss this opportunity, it’s also important that the collaborative spirit, the marketing initiative and the regional approach continues after the golfers move on to their next tour date.”
The Wells Fargo Championship at Eagle Point Golf Club runs May 1-7, and is in Wilmington for just 2017. The Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte has been home to the PGA Tour event since its inception in 2003 and will continue to be the host site except this year when Quail Hollow hosts the PGA Championship.
“Smart communities take full advantage of these types of special events,” said Scott Satterfield, CEO of Wilmington Business Development. “You see it when cities host the Super Bowl or the NCAA Final Four. In the years that the U.S. Open was held at Pinehurst, the state of North Carolina organized major promotional efforts for the state.
“When we learned Wilmington would host the Wells Fargo Championship, we knew it would be a golden opportunity to showcase our community to the global business audience. We’ve worked with tournament organizers to make the most of it.”
The chamber-led marketing strategy outlined is to work with various regional organizations to develop a brand messaging campaign, media relations push and print and digital ad campaign as a way to promote the area for new businesses and further economic growth.
The goal is to generate long-term interest, investment and impact in the Cape Fear region.
“We are not developing an economic development effort. We think the economic developers in the region do a fabulous job,” said Albert Eckel, partner and founder of Eckel & Vaughan, the Raleigh-based communications firm that was selected by the chamber to create this initiative. “What we’re doing is taking advantage of the Wells Fargo event, to really develop an integrated marketing communications campaign that goes out and really helps tell the region’s story. It’s our belief the rising tide will lift all ships here.”
The approach Eckel has laid out is called PESO media integration. PESO stands for paid, earned, shared and owned. Paid media will include conventional advertising, digital ads and signage. Earned media means stories written about the event and region, by others, such as local or regional print and television. The shared media component covers all social media efforts, while owned media refers to things like a microsite (web), video productions, testimonials, welcome packets and expo tents.
Tammy Proctor, tourism director for Pender County, said the plan’s regional approach is key.
“A prospective business owner doesn’t see county boundaries. They see schools, infrastructure, location and all of the variables that go into making this major investment decision,” she said.
The efforts are picking up steam, as the actual tournament is three months away.
The multi-pronged attack got underway in January, as organizers began work on honing the message and brand of the region.
This month, short video vignettes are slated to be produced and distributed that look at regional assets and case studies. In March, a special online microsite is expected to be up, with regional messaging.
In the spring the signage will go up across the region, and digital advertising will begin in earnest, including paid search, retargeting and geofencing, Eckel said. Also in March the team will assemble video B-roll, photography and facts about the region to be made available to CBS for possible use during the tournament broadcast. The Wells Fargo Championship will have nearly 38 hours of coverage on Golf Channel and CBS Sports.
The audience being targeted throughout the marketing initiative effort includes site selection personnel, economic developers, business leaders, entrepreneurs, investors and C-suite executives.
Eckel & Vaughan has also developed a list of industry targets, which currently include agriculture/food processing/aquaculture, research & development, advanced manufacturing, IT/high tech and biotech/marine biotech.
“We’ll be hosting a media reception that we’re working with at least seven different organizations from the area on, introducing the media – the national and international media – to the broader base of southeastern North Carolina,” said Kim Hufham, president and CEO at Wilmington and Beaches Convention & Visitors Bureau. “It’s a great opportunity for us. We’re on the worldwide stage, and we’re excited about it.”
The regional marketing initiative is being funded by $100,000 from the Wilmington Chamber’s flagship initiative, Cape Fear Future. On Feb. 6, the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners approved $75,000 of funds for the initiative, to be spread over two fiscal years. The Wilmington City Council also was asked to put $50,000 toward the regional marketing effort, but it had not yet voted on the request as of press time.
“We have pulled together 20 individuals from 13 economic development organizations from four counties who have met and committed to collaborate on this project, to tell our story,” said Dick Blouse, interim CEO of the Wilmington chamber.
And the project isn’t expected to end after the trophy is handed to the tournament winner.
The initiative calls for more national print advertising in trade publications through December, as well as a presence at national conferences and industry weeks around the country. It also encourages additional local and regional event sponsorships for continued brand awareness.
“We believe that over time,” Blouse said, “this marketing campaign will help our economic developers drive more growth and create more jobs.”