Sunday was the final, of four days, of the U.S. Open. Golf is clearly not as fan-favorited as soccer, football, basketball or hockey. But many people are aware of the “major” golf tournaments – just as non-horseracers know about the Kentucky Derby or Preakness. So there was more awareness than average about the sport on Sunday, and a tremendously greater amount of media coverage.
Interestingly, the big winner on the day was Octopus Pants. If you’re confused – read on!
Monday morning if you opened a Yahoo! browser window and looked the top “trending now” box there, plain as day, was “Octopus pants.” US Open was not there. Nor was the name of the winner - Justin Rose (who came from behind to win.) Nor the name of the leader for almost the entire tournament, and a huge crowd favorite in the sport, Phil Mickelson.
But, back in the pack, was a very good golfer named Billy Horschel. Although he’s a great golfer, and a previous PGA tournament winner, was almost impossible to think he would win the U.S. Open on the final day, even though he shot a great second round (it takes 4 rounds to complete the tournament.) Barring a near-miracle, the focus would be on the leaders Sunday so there was a chance the relative newcomer would not receive much attention. [He did end up 6th - which is far better than the famous Tiger Woods, who came in 36th.]
In golf this is important because not only did it mean he would take home a smaller purse, but it also meant his value as an endorser for sponsors is lower. As a fairly new golfer to the Professional Golf Association (PGA) tournaments Mr. Horschel is known in golf circles because he plays Ping brand clubs. But few people know that for apparel Mr Horschel is sponsored by Ralph Lauren.
So, on Sunday he showed up wearing a pair of pants covered with images of Octopus. Pants that are part of the Ralph Lauren RXL line. Mr. Horschel (and the Lauren team) was smart enough to use social media (Twitter, etc.) to heighten interest in his appearance. This bit of assault on the sensibilities of golf, combined with fashion, sent interest in Mr. Horschel’s apparel – if not his golf – viral. Not only were golfers looking for glimpses of Mr. Horschel’s run for the leader board, but people not usually interested int the game were tuning in and keeping tabs via their mobile devices on his performance — and his pants!
Now, a combination of thinking ahead as to what he might wear, combined with some help from a smart sponsor like Lauren, and really smart use of social media marketing has helped Mr. Horschel, Lauren and Octopus Pants to become a global sensation. More interesting to more people than the tournament winner, the tournament leader and even the biggest names (including Rory McElroy, Graham McDowell, Ian Poulter, Luke Donald) in the sport — and their sponsors.
Winning often means thinking, and doing things, outside the box. Preparing to do something unconventional is important. While I’m sure there was a plan for Mr. Horschel to be much more typically attired had he been the tournament leader, Lauren’s team did a great job of figuring out multiple outcomes and how to be a winner under multiple scenarios. Planning for how to win under multiple contingencies is critical in business. And having outside-the-box solutions thought through and ready to implement is the sign of a winning strategy – from different product to using unconventional marketing techniques.
While we all should congratulate Justin Rose on a big win the U.S. Open, the big winner here was Ralph Lauren – and Octopus pants!
image credit: panasianbiz.com
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Adam Hartung, author of Create Marketplace Disruption, is a Faculty and Board member of the Lake Forest Graduate School of Management, Managing Partner of Spark Partners, and writes for Forbes and the Journal for Innovation Science.