Dittoe dominates the BMW Championship scorecard, helping client Western Golf Association win PGA TOUR tournament of the year honor

“Cinderella story. Outta nowhere. It looks like a mirac-…It’s in the hole! It’s in the hole! It’s in the hole!” – “Caddyshack”

Back in February, Dittoe Public Relations faced long odds. It had submitted a proposal to be the local media relations firm of record for the Western Golf Association (WGA), which would host the BMW Championship PGA TOUR event at Crooked Stick Golf Course in Carmel, Ind., seven months later.

Tiger Woods. Rory McIlroy. Phil Mickelson. For one week in September golf’s biggest names would turn Central Indiana into the sport’s Mecca. Dittoe, a small boutique firm, had never landed a client with such a wide impact – in the sports world, on the Hoosier economy – as the WGA and its tournament.

Dittoe would go on to beat the odds and win the bid to represent the WGA and the BMW Championship, breaking through barriers in traditional and new media along the way. The greatest reward came just last week, when the PGA TOUR named the BMW Championship its tournament of the year.

It’s our Cinderella story.

Dittoe’s overriding task was to increase local awareness of the tournament through media relations. It was a formidable job: The 2012 BMW Championship marked the first time since the 1991 PGA Championship that the PGA TOUR had competed in Indiana. And since 1962, the BMW Championship (previously known as the Western Open) had been held outside greater Chicago only once.

Professional golf, unlike basketball and football and auto racing, was not on Hoosiers’ collective conscience.

Thorough analysis of the Indianapolis market and regional media landscape set the stage for success. Dittoe’s personalized pitching led to more than 1,100 pieces of media coverage. In total, the BMW Championship witnessed more than 1.14 billion impressions in print and online media.

Traditional media, it turned out, wasn’t Dittoe’s only strength.

Social media would emerge as an important tool in engaging Hoosiers about the BMW Championship, and Dittoe’s unique approach wowed WGA officials. Just like with traditional media, social media had its challenges; namely, the BMW Championship Twitter handle was left practically dormant for years.

To generate buzz, Dittoe created the “Place the Pin” promotion, a sweepstakes that took place on Twitter and in the real world. Eighteen “Place the Pin” pin flag exhibits were placed in locations around Indianapolis and Carmel. During an 18-day span, participants were asked to tweet photos of themselves at the various exhibits in a scavenger hunt-style format to win daily prizes of ticket giveaways that culminated in a grand prize of a VIP ticket package. Also, a flag signed by four of golf’s biggest names – Tiger Woods, 2011 BMW Championship winner Justin Rose, Camilo Villegas and Dustin Johnson – was given away in a “Capture the Flag” contest to cap the promotion.

Be careful not to underestimate the power of social media.

“Place the Pin” drew more than 700 local participants and increased the @BMWchamps’ Twitter handle Klout score from 17 to 64 – in less than three weeks’ time. Additionally, a redemption promo code that was part of the promotion led to more than $10,000 in ticket revenue.

Here are a few takeaways that might help with your next social media project:

  • Make the prize relevant to the client. Don’t host an iPad giveaway unless your client sells cases for iPads. Giving away a prize that has nothing to do with your client might help increase your following in the short term, but they will be the wrong kinds of fans.
  • Consider the barrier to entry. How much effort does someone need to put in to win or enter your contest? Don’t make contests difficult unless the prize you’re offering is worth the effort.
  • People love participation trophies. If possible, make sure that everyone who enters your contest or sweepstakes gets something. Coupons or online offers are best since you avoid the hassle of shipping a physical item.
  • Use participants to spread the word. Plan your contest so participants are forced to share their entries with their friends and followers.

The BMW Championship drew more than 140,000 spectators to Crooked Stick Golf Club, making it one of the top-attended PGA TOUR events in 2012. Through traditional media outreach and modern social media strategies, Dittoe dominated the scorecard in publicizing and sparking engagement.

It’s our Cinderella story.