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Seeing is Believing
Jacobsen, A Textron Company, used minimal exhibitry to make room for the equipment that Golf Industry Show attendees flocked to see.
Traffic Builder
Exhibitor: Jacobsen, a Textron Company
Creative: 3D Exhibits Inc., Schaumburg, IL, 800-471-9617, www.3dexhibits.com
Production: Plexus Productions LLC, Schaumburg, IL, 888-866-5773, www.plexus821.com
Show: Golf Industry Show (GIS), 2016
Budget: $50,000 - $74,000
Capture 425 new leads.
Cultivate relationships with attendees by distributing free lunches outside the convention center.
Incentivize demos of the Eclipse 322 mower by offering $5 Starbucks gift cards.
Drive traffic and boost brand awareness.
Acquired 525 new leads.
Served 400 lunches each day of the show.
Coaxed 54 attendees to the Eclipse 322 demo.
Distributed 12,000 branded cinch sacks and 6,000 branded golf hats.

PHOTOS: Jacobsen, A Textron Company
Orange Ambush
Jacobsen, A Textron Company, increases leads by 36 percent using a passport strategy, the lure of a free lunch, and a trio of exhibits at the Golf Industry Show. By Claire Walling
Whether on the greens or inside the exhibit hall, nothing brings out ingenuity like stiff competition. And for Jacobsen, A Textron Company, that competition consistently comes in the form of two industry heavyweights. Only three manufacturers play in the proverbial sandbox of high-end golf-course mowers: Jacobsen, Deere & Co. (aka John Deere), and The Toro Co., all three of which are regular exhibitors at the Golf Industry Show (GIS), an annual gathering for golf course superintendents who direct the day-to-day maintenance of the greens and have final say when purchasing equipment.

That competition is compounded by the current state of the golf industry. When the economy tanked in 2007 and consumers scrambled to cut back expenses, they skimped on luxury items and leisure activities such as golf. Even as the economy has bounced back, fewer Americans are picking up their clubs, and doing so less often. In 2005, 30 million people played some 550 million rounds of golf. But by 2013, only 25 million people were playing 465 million rounds. That decline led to a precipitous drop in the total number of golf courses in the United States – and a subsequent decrease in demand for fairway and greens mowers. So faced with steep competition and tightening budgets, Jacobsen knew it needed a creative approach to stand out at its most important trade show of the year.

True Colors
Traditionally, each of the aforementioned industry players coats every square inch of booth space with its signature hue: orange for Jacobsen, green for John Deere, and red for Toro. But Jacobsen had long known that in an industry where customers have more brand loyalty than Apple users – and less money to spend – simply stationing staffers in an orange booth would not sway superintendents who have been driving red Toro or green John Deere mowers since they first stepped onto a golf course.

As such, Jacobsen has a history of staging creative campaigns at GIS to woo die-hard Deere and Toro fans and encourage them to kick the tires of its newest mower models. The company unveiled its Orange Everywhere theme at the 2013 show in an effort to paint San Diego's Gaslamp Quarter, the neighborhood next to the convention center, in the company's corporate orange. This was accomplished via free rides in branded pedicabs, roving staffers distributing branded swag, a fleet of orange muscle cars, and more. The success of that campaign prompted Jacobsen to capitalize on marketing tactics beyond the four walls of the convention center as GIS hopscotched to Orlando, FL, in 2014, and San Antonio in 2015. So when the show circled back to San Diego this year, Jacobsen was poised to once again market inside the venue and out. But the hitch with redeploying a previously successful strategy was keeping it fresh and surprising for GIS attendees.

The company's goal for GIS 2016, then, was simple: "We wanted to market to superintendents who we aren't currently doing business with," says Adam Slick, senior marketing and communications manager for Jacobsen. Specifically, the company hoped to drive traffic to its exhibit and capture 425 new leads at the show.

Show and Tell
Attendees' quest to visit all three of Jacobsen's booths afforded staffers ample opportunities to tell them about the company's newest mowers.

Orange Occupation
In addition to its 60-by-100-foot flagship booth, where staffers would be ready to showcase the company's new products and dole out hot-off-the-presses tchotchkes, Jacobsen also purchased a 40-by-40-foot plot of show-floor real estate a few aisles away from its main space to show off its certified pre-owned (CPO) equipment. Neither Toro nor John Deere offer this service (their secondhand equipment is rehabbed by dealers independently), so Jacobsen wanted to ensure that this unique differentiator had its own stage from which to shine – without muddling the message within its larger exhibit.

Jacobsen's show presence would also extend to Electric Ave., a booth built by the Golf Course Builders Association of America. That space would not only showcase the organization's landscaping skills, but also serve as a demo area for any exhibitor selling a piece of electric equipment (the only type of equipment allowed to run inside the convention center). Myriad exhibitors showed off their electric weed trimmers and the like, but since Jacobsen is the only manufacturer of an all-electric mower, it would be the sole member of the "Big Three" brands to allow superintendents to drive a mower around the sod-covered space.

With a presence at three separate locations inside the 250,000-square-foot exhibit hall, Jacobsen's signature color would be omnipresent. The hitch, however, would be getting attendees to visit all three booths. "We knew that just asking people to go check out our trio of exhibits wasn't going to work," Slick says. "We had to incentivize them somehow." Slick and the Jacobsen marketing team surmised that the lure of winning a slew of prizes would have attendees scurrying around the show floor to visit all three spaces. So with a strategy in place, Jacobsen began ironing out the details for GIS.

Playing Cards
While Jacobsen offered plenty of swag, including branded hats and cinch bags, inside the convention center, its hospitality extended outdoors with free pedicabs and a café that served up 400 free lunches each day of the show.

1. Attendees received an orange cinch sack at registration with the passport tucked inside.
2. Participants had their passports stamped after visiting each of Jacobsen's three exhibits.
3. Attendees dropped off their completed passports at the main Jacobsen booth to be entered in a drawing for one of 25 prizes.
Passport Promotion
When attendees arrived at the San Diego Convention Center, Jacobsen wasted no time in making sure they saw orange at every turn. The onslaught started at the registration desk, where attendees were given a neon orange nylon cinch sack emblazoned with Jacobsen's logo. Inside, they found a bevy of fliers from other exhibitors and show management, in addition to a 5-by-6.5-inch card from Jacobsen that told recipients if they visited all three of company's exhibits and earned a stamp at each, they would be eligible to win a prize. One side of the card listed all 25 prizes attendees could to win if they completed the challenge: an Apple Watch Sport, Costa Sunglasses, a FitBit Charge HR fitness tracker, a Big Green Egg charcoal barbeque cooker, and a Yeti cooler. Jacobsen gave away five models of each prize, a move the marketing team thought would entice more people to participate than simply raffling off one big-ticket item. "We thought we might get better engagement if there were more opportunities to win," says Dena Jenkins, the events and channel manager at Jacobsen.

With their marching orders in hand, attendees beelined toward one of Jacobsen's three spaces. There was no set order for visiting the booths. Rather, participants could procure the required stamps at their leisure on the first day and second morning of the show. One of those must-hit destinations, then, was Jacobsen's behemoth main booth designed and fabricated by Schaumburg, IL-based 3D Exhibits Inc. The 60-by-100-foot space featured sparse exhibitry to make room for trailer loads of mowers and aerators, explains Nelson Corazzari, 3D's senior vice president and account executive.

As superintendents ogled the shiny machinery, they also queued up in front of the reception desk to get their hands on some sweet swag. But before they could do so, Jacobsen staffers stamped their passports in exchange for a badge scan. For more than a decade the company had given out branded golf hats embroidered with the show year and location. According to Jenkins, the head coverings had acquired a substantial fan base, and 2016's model was no exception. "We handed out all 6,000 hats and still had people asking for them long after we ran out," she says.

Attendees hoping to win one of the 25 prizes also had to saunter over to the CPO booth, where they got their passport stamped while also learning about the company's commitment to putting previously used equipment back on the golf course. The final piece of the passport-promo trifecta was the Electric Ave. booth, located in a far-flung corner of the convention center. Jacobsen staffers stationed at a small kiosk offered a $5 Starbucks gift card to any attendee who hopped on an Eclipse 322 electric mower, and, of course, stamped attendees' passports. Having earned all their stamps, attendees returned to the main booth to drop off their completed passports. Jacobsen randomly drew 25 names on the second day of the show and notified the lucky winners via email.

Sweet Swag
While Jacobsen offered plenty of swag, including branded hats and cinch bags, inside the convention center, its hospitality extended outdoors with free pedicabs and a café that served up 400 free lunches each day of the show.

Feeding Frenzy
Jacobsen didn't just paint the show hall orange; it also courted clients and prospects outside the convention center. As attendees, weary from roaming the show floor, left the venue and scattered to the surrounding neighborhood in search of sustenance, Jacobsen had lunch waiting for them in an area dubbed the Jacobsen Café across the street. Many attendees (and, in all likelihood, more than a few competing exhibitors) had seen the ad hoc hospitality suite on their morning walk from the hotel to the venue. But a team of brand ambassadors informed passersby that if they wanted to nosh, they first had to trek to Jacobsen's primary booth in the convention center, have their badge scanned, and receive an orange wristband.

When the lunch hour arrived, two food trucks from InSlider, a family-owned San Diego catering company, dished out burgers topped with orange cheddar cheese and French fries. The Orange Everywhere theme even stretched to the beverage station, where attendees could choose between orange soda, orange-colored Gatorade, and water with a custom orange label stored in the ice-filled bed of a Jacobsen utility vehicle. In the afternoon, attendees with orange wristbands could use Jacobsen's outdoor area to rest their weary feet, enjoy a beverage, and converse with staffers long after the last of the day's allotted 400 meals had been distributed.

Jacobsen's emphasis on hospitality continued throughout each day of the show. The company sponsored a fleet of orange pedicabs and tasked the drivers with giving free rides around the Gaslamp Quarter to attendees who flashed GIS show badges. These efforts not only reinforced Jacobsen's selling point that it provides superior service to its customers, but also sent brand buzz swirling around the convention center and its adjoining district – paying dividends by the time the show came to an end.


Here's a snapshot of how Jacobsen, a Textron Innovations Inc. company, spent its modest promotional budget at the Golf Industry Show.
Flying Colors
By the close of the show, Jacobsen had gathered 525 new leads, a healthy 24 percent over its goal of 425, and 36 percent more than its lead total from the 2015 show. Plus 54 attendees partook in the Eclipse 322 demo. The brand buzz generated from the test drives even earned Jacobsen a mention on the Golf Channel for its ride-along opportunities at the Electric Ave. booth.

Jacobsen's success carried over to its brand-awareness efforts as well. The company distributed 12,000 branded cinch sacks and 6,000 hats in addition to the 400 free lunches it dispensed each day in its outdoor café. Sizzle Awards judges took notice of that success and lavished praise accordingly. "The brand was everywhere. That kind of domination goes a long way toward positioning a company as a market leader," one judge said. "And the fact that Jacobsen was able to lavish food, prizes, and promotional items on attendees for a budget of less than $75,000 is remarkable." Those results are proof positive that stiff competition can buoy a business that has the audacity to think outside of the booth-space box. E

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