Okay, so if you’re desperate to attract viewers to watch a golf tournament, what do you do? Well, if you are the folks at Carat Fusion in charge of designing an online device that will appeal to golf enthusiasts as well as the apathetic (like myself), you design a Flash-based golf game that instigates an instant viral campaign—this one promoting the Wachovia brand and the Wachovia Championship, which airs May 4-5 on the USA Network and May 6-7 on CBS at the Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, NC.
Players can go to http://www.championship17.com/ to try their hand at the 17th hole on the course, one of the most challenging holes on the PGA tour. The hope is that participants in this virtual experience will also tune into the tournament on TV. The problem is that I doubt having this viral stunt would build enough buzz to really rope in viewers, especially new eyes, to watch the televised tournament. And, I have not noticed any cross-promotional ads on any of the major online sports destinations (ESPN.com, SI.com, or Foxsports.com).
I must admit, though, as someone who has always been bored by golf, I found playing the game quite amusing. Despite the directions on the site, it takes a couple of tries to get the hang of the power bar, which determines whether your ball will actually make it anywhere near the hole. I also couldn’t quite figure out how to adjust the player’s stance while hitting the ball. But despite these faults in execution, the Flash graphics are brilliant down to the flag that waves in the wind at 5 mph. The viewer can also choose the appropriate club to hit with and has a prime view of their ball as it flies over–and hopefully not into–the water and lands on the green.
Will the Wachovia Championship have higher ratings because of its online golf game? No. Will people enjoy wasting a few minutes at their desks playing virtual golf if they happen to hear about the website? Absolutely. But, I don’t think that is the point Wachovia wanted to drive home.