Series starts year off on an odd note
January 8, 2018 by Alex Colucci in Opinion with 0 comments
Last week the Disc Golf Pro Tour attempted to generate hype for the 2018 season with a 42-second promotional video released on its YouTube channel. The video was… something. I had to think twice upon viewing it to make sure it wasn’t the annual New Year’s Eve hangover fog playing tricks on me.
The video has now been removed from YouTube, but not without leaving an impression. Indeed, the internet has a way of never letting things truly disappear, so here it is to watch in full:
The video was up on YouTube for at least two or three days and viewed over 500 times there, and over 3,000 times on its attendant Facebook post.
When reached for comment on the video’s appearance and subsequent removal last week, DGPT Tour Director Steve Dodge said that the video was published accidentally. The error was caught “slower than normal due to the holidays,” he said, and it was actually meant to appear shortly before tee off of the series’ first live broadcast “to get people pumped to watch.”
The advertisement certainly garnered a reaction, but it might not be the one desired.
Let’s get something out of the way up front: This isn’t a teardown of the DGPT presented just for the sake of finding something to complain about because it’s the offseason. Dodge’s enterprise has for two years succeeded in creating a series of events where high-level professionals can spend the season touring, and that is commendable. Instead, this is a questioning of the DGPT’s promotional choices.
As jaded as I sometimes like to think I am in terms of commercialization and being advertised to, I must admit I can still be bought. For example, Major League Baseball is going to make a big fuss about pitchers and catchers reporting to Spring Training in about a month, and that’s going to grab my attention, just like it does every year. The Star Wars previews made me actually, physically go a theater to see some movies for a change.
All this is to say that everyone can be persuaded to buy in to something, no matter how cynical we think we are. In fact, at a certain level, it’s not unreasonable to suggest that we all want to buy in, even before some entity advertises to us. It’s particularly human to want to feel like we’re part of something bigger than ourselves, something that we can share with like-minded and equally enthusiastic people.
And there’s a reason nearly every university in the United States has a marketing focus in their business departments and communication studies are booming. Turns out, thoroughly convincing people to give you their money, time, and attention can take a lot of practice, and the rise of vapid consumerism over the last 100-odd years since the industrial revolution and the advent of mass production indicates there has been much success in this endeavor.
But, clearly, not every business or company hits its stride right away — or even ever — and this isn’t the first questionable DGPT marketing snafu that has left fans scratching their heads. Convincing people disc golf is a great participation sport appears to be going well, if the PDGA’s growing membership numbers are any indication, but convincing people disc golf is just as good a spectator sport is a whole other challenge. So far, DGPT promotional media (but certainly not just theirs alone) has yet to fully solve the equation.
And so we’re left with marketing material like this video, which leaves the viewer with many questions about just what exactly is going on with it.
- Why is there a car, and why does it look rendered in a way that makes me recall the last time I really played video games? (I’m not going out on much of a limb here, but I have a strong suspicion video graphics have advanced in quality since 2010, and the ones in this video appear only slightly better than what I remember.)
- Why is there only “00:00:02.816” seconds of actual disc golf in a video that has a description that implores viewers “Yes, it is time to watch”?
- More directly, why put a timer on the video that ultimately only proves just how little disc golf is actually in the video?
I’m not going to play stupid; I get the premise: See here, the animated Faux Mustang is a symbol for being fast, and by association — look! — so is disc golf. It possesses many of the same qualities.1 “Cool,” we are meant to think, through association.
But why foist all that associative responsibility and energy on the viewer? Why not just show everyone exactly how much “speed, finesse, and power” professional disc golfers have and ditch the cheaply animated car altogether? Is the Mustang going to make a surprise appearance playing on the lead card at the MVP Open at Maple Hill in August? No. We all know there are hundreds of hours of footage out there from 16 DGPT tournaments over the last two years that contain many great highlights from the sport’s brightest stars. Use those instead.
Perhaps the biggest red flag is this: It’s not entirely clear who exactly this promotional video is intended for. Is it the fans the DGPT already has, or maybe disc golfers who aren’t yet fans of the professional game? The general public who might only be vaguely aware of the sport, if at all? The middle of a Venn diagram depicting fans of both disc golf and automobile-oriented video games?
So far, the promo seems to have missed the mark with fans who have felt compelled to comment on the video’s social media post or frequent the sport’s open message boards. I have a sneaking suspicion the video’s reception wouldn’t have been much different even if it had been first published as intended in the lead up to the DGPT’s first event.
Despite the questionable removal of the video, hopefully this feedback will make the Pro Tour take a step back and put some additional thought into its potential target audiences. I’m not sure disc golf is really at the point where it can appeal to the general public as a spectator sport, so perhaps the tour’s marketing should focus on reaching disc golfers who might not yet be fans of following the pro game.
Sure, different parts of professional disc golf will appeal to any number of potential players-turned-fans, but one seemingly fail-safe strategy would be promoting the many personalities on tour and the mind-bending feats they can perform with discs. For example, just look at how Jomez Productions’ highlight compilation featuring the best moments of 2017 — published the same day as the DGPT’s ill-fated video appeared on YouTube — did in terms of total views and their likes-to-dislikes ratios.
Again, this isn’t just an attempt to throw a wet blanket over a tour series that has had its share of success entering a third year of existence. I sincerely hope the DGPT continues trying to get people excited about watching and following professional disc golf for years to come; I just hope their marketing makes a turn toward pushing professional disc golfers with some sort of cohesive artistic direction.
And, beyond just what the DGPT can do in terms of inducing more spectatorship going forward, there is good reason to be hopeful. The last five years of evolving disc golf media has proven that the sport is full of motivated and creative people focused on pushing the sport to the heights we know it deserves. We know the professional players, certainly, deserve it. The video crews who pump out next-day tournament footage deserve it, as do the tournament directors and volunteers who make the events happen.
The great irony here is that a golf disc thrown by a professional on a long drive off the tee would actually accelerate beyond 60 miles per hour much faster than a car can reach that same speed. ↩