Giant putters on excavators and “Dance Dance Revolution” style games that show off fertilizer technology are just a few of the ways John Deere engages audiences on the PGA Tour.
The John Deere Classic, played last month at the TPC Deere Run Golf Club in Silvis, IL, is John Deere’s largest marketing activation all year. The company won the honor of “Best Title Sponsor Integration” from the PGA Tour last year, because of the non-traditional experiences it offered throughout the course.
“We think the Classic is the perfect platform to demonstrate our commitment to innovation, no matter what the product line, whether it is for golf and turf, or construction,” says Mara Downing, VP, global brand management and corporate communications for Deere. “We can showcase equipment in a different way and tell a story. It’s a unique way to bring our platform to life and give attendees something unexpected.”
The company’s machines are used in a number of innovative ways, such as using a feller buncher—a large piece of forestry equipment used in logging—to hold a pin flag, or a seed hopper as a beverage cooler. (That one got a number of comments on social media from people looking to buy one for themselves.)
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The experiences were designed to engage attendees and bring the company’s product line to life. Other attractions included mini-excavator buckets of golf balls, hay bale targets on the driving range, a seeding hopper turned cooler and branded tee-markers. This year, Deer partnered with golf equipment manufacturers PING and Bridgestone to make the displays even more accurate and realistic.
“It’s a way of showing off the personality of the equipment,” says Downing. “It was neat to see people gravitating to the excavator with a giant driver head, taking selfies and wanting to learn more.”
Another part of the experience at the Classic was the John Deere Family Zone, an air-conditioned facility where families could go to beat the heat and try out activities such as a farming simulator created in partnership with GIANTS software, or “Stomp and Spray.” This game showcased a technology that allows farmers to apply fertilizer or pesticides only where they are needed most in a format similar to “Dance Dance Revolution.”
Overall, ROI from the Classic is looked at through the lens of several key elements. These include community impact and brand awareness, because the customer base tends to have a high affinity for the game. Social engagement across several channels, including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube, is also measured.
Also important is the perspective of customer who can attend in person is also important. John Deere entertains over 3,000 customers and suppliers in conjunction with the Classic, both with VIP experiences at the course and events at its nearby HQ in Moline, IL.