Southwest Airlines, Adams create marketing alliance

Southwest will use Adams and the sport of golf as vehicles to court more business travelers. Meanwhile, Adams gains exposure riding the marketing resources of one of the nation's major domestic carriers.

When Dave Ridley visited Adams Golf headquarters in Plano, Texas, last November in search of a new set of clubs, the term "custom fit" took on a whole new meaning.

Ridley, Southwest Airlines' senior vice president of business development, got more than a hybrid. He met Scott Blevins, Adams' chief marketing officer, and the two began exchanging ideas. One conversation led to another and it soon became apparent that an alliance between the two would create a tailor-made solution for both companies' marketing objectives.

The end result: Southwest will use Adams and the sport of golf as vehicles to court more business travelers. Meanwhile, Adams gains exposure riding the marketing resources of one of the nation's major domestic carriers.

At least through 2013, Southwest, in essence, will borrow Adams tour players – who will display co-branded staff bags and headwear – to encourage golf fans to consider Southwest for their business travel. There also is a natural tie-in with Adams' "Easy Million" campaign. The promotion, which touts the extra distance golfers gain by using Adams clubs, now will offer a grand prize of one million Rapid Reward points on Southwest.

"I probably ought to put a more scientific, strategic face on it, but I'm just telling you the truth," Ridley said. "I needed a new hybrid, and the strategy evolved out of that."

For Southwest, the use of Adams players enables the airline to deliver a marketing message that better connects and resonates with golf consumers – who often happen to be business executives.

"We have always carried lots of golfers, probably more than anybody, on leisure trips, primarily because of our historically low fares and highlighted by the fact that golf bags fly free," Ridley said. "But we're trying to communicate to the golfing community that you need to think about Southwest for business purposes as well."

Though teaming with Adams was pure happenstance, Ridley – a self-described avid golfer – said he was well-versed in the club manufacturer's history and appreciated the compatibility between the two companies.

"They've been kind of the underdog, the overachiever, pushing back against the big boys," Ridley said. "They clearly have a product line, driven largely by their hybrids, but certainly it's spread into the rest of their line – (an effort) to make the game easier and bring more people into the game.

"It's very similar to the history of Southwest. What we've been about for 42 years is giving Americans the freedom to fly, to expand travel for folks who otherwise wouldn't be able to afford it. They're opening up the game the same way we've opened up the skies."

Blevins said the similarity between the two brands – they each preach "fun, friendly and inviting" in their respective categories – made an alliance all the more fitting.

For Adams, the deal will gain it "exposure in different (marketing) mediums… With Southwest's horsepower, it's a big opportunity for us," Blevins said.

Adams' tour players aren't being financially compensated in the deal, but suffice it to say, they'll be getting their share of free travel on Southwest, too.

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