Helping Brunswick Slay Its Giants

Hello Prof and friends! This is my summary of my individual report done on a company close to my heart- Brunswick. Having been a bowler for the past 12 years, my knowledge of the sport and industry has been put to good use in this paper. As Bowling is a technical sport, I have done by best to simplify the terminology to make it understandable even to someone without any experience in the sport.


1. Background of Brunswick

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Founded in 1845 by John Moses Brunswick, Brunswick is a listed American multi-national
corporation that manufactures a large variety of recreation products, including boats, bowling and billiards equipment. Its bowling business in particular consist of  two main lines: Bowling Centres (operating bowling centres and peripheral activities) and Bowling Equipment and Products (manufacturing machinery for bowling centres and consumer products for bowlers). For the purpose of this report, I will be focusing solely on their Bowling Equipment and Products segment, in particular consumer products, which includes bowling balls, shoes, bags.

Interesting to note is the role Brunswick played in raising up the sport of bowling. Not only did Brunswick standardise the rules for the game, they pioneered research and made initial investments into the various technologies that now define the sport. As such, the Brunswick name is synonymous with Bowling. As a result of the company’s long history and archaic social media sites, younger consumers perceive Brunswick to be an outdated and antiquated brand, despite its success in producing cutting edge products.

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2. Research Question and Target Audience

My research question is thus: How can Brunswick better engage the younger league bowlers to improve its brand image while still emphasizing its long history in the industry? With a hypothesis that Brunswick has an antiquated brand image among them.

(It is key to understand here that it is possible to segment the Bowling market in a couple of ways. The first way would be according to experience and status- recreational, league and professional. The second way would be according to their personal style of bowling- traditional and unorthodox. And the third way would be according to their age group.)

As such, my research question is focused on targeting specifically the young league bowlers. Here’s more in-depth look at the reasons behind my choice of target audience and factors.Why will improvements in brand engagement, rather than other measures, lead to an improved brand image?

As Brunswick made significant contributions to the sport, the brand doesn’t lack awareness among consumers, in fact it is impossible to find a bowler that has not come across Brunswick before. However, as it has not been able to effectively engage its younger consumers and this has resulted in them being deemed as outdated.

Why youths?
Brunswick has a loyal following among the older crowd of bowlers attributable to the brand loyalty that Brunswick has cultivated with them over the years. Brunswick has cultivated an antiquated brand image amongst the youths due to their lack of engagement with the brand, this is one big reason why they are  losing out to competitors Storm and Roto Grip which have won over the younger crowd with their innovative marketing.

Why league bowlers?
Manufacturers like Brunswick, Storm and Roto Grip churn out new products to cater to consumers who buy these products. Taking the United States market as a gauge, the market size of league and professional bowlers is relatively small, with only 2 million people registered as league and professional bowlers, compared to a pool of 67 million recreational bowlers, which include people who bowl at least once a year. Due to the high cost and complexity of the product, it is unlikely that recreation bowlers that bowl only a few times a year would invest in expensive bowling equipment. This reduces the potential market to include just league and professional bowlers. However, as sponsored professional bowlers receive free equipment from Brunswick, Brunswick does not earn anything from them, reducing the target audience to league bowlers that spend their own money to buy equipment. As such, in line with the above explanation, I have chosen league bowlers as it would make the most sense to tailor the social media strategies to this group of consumers as they are the company’s primary audience.

3. Data Collection and Findings

To enhance my analysis of Brunswick’s social media usage, I have chosen to analyse two of Brunswick’s closest competitors in the consumer products segment of the Bowling Equipment and Products market, namely Storm and Roto Grip. This enabled me to expand my analysis beyond Brunswick and to conduct a comparative study as well.
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As these three companies are all privately held, I had to conduct an interview with the sole distributor of Storm and Roto Grip in Singapore, Mr A.K. Yong. From that interview I found that Storm holds the greatest market share with 25%, Roto Grip managed 20% and Brunswick with 17%. He also stressed that Storm and Roto Grip’s strong presence on social media sites has been a “concerted effort by management” to use the opportunity to build brand engagement and align their presence online with their brand image.

Finding 1: Storm and Roto Grip incorporate more engaging and original content into their posts

Storm and Roto Grip frequently uploads interesting content such as instructional videos such as “How To Spare A Pin 10” as well as interviews with professional bowlers in which they share tips to help bowlers improve. This turns their Facebook page into a platform where consumers can interact, increasing brand salience. Whereas, Brunswick has opted not to post such videos, utilising their page solely as a commercial outlet rather than interactive outlet.

The variation in the approach taken by these companies with regard to their product promotion videos are also very stark. I invite you to watch these two videos and see firsthand how different these companies approach product promotion videos.

From the above videos it is clear that Storm’s style is more engaging as they conduct never-seen-before activities that spark excitement and curiosity among consumers. It also creates the desired long-tail effect and increases brand engagement when consumers continue to talk about the brand post-campaign. Furthermore, these videos are popular because consumers feel like they are being entertained and engaged and not directly sold a product. Whereas, Brunswick’s video is boring and overloaded with technical information of the product.

Finding 2: Storm and Roto Grip post more frequently

Over the 24-day period of data tracking, Brunswick posted approximately 5.29 times a week compared to Storm and Roto Grip which managed to churn out a greater quantity of posts within a week at 9.11 and 7.94 respectively. As such, simply looking at numbers, Brunswick is falling behind their key competitors and needs to make a greater effort to be more active on their Facebook page.

Finding 3: Storm and Roto Grip use hashtags sparingly

It is common to see Brunswick attaching too many hashtags to its Facebook posts, such as #teambrunswick, #tonightwebowl, #wowthatsradical, #bowlwithbruns, #wearebowling. In contrast, Storm and Roto Grip include only one hashtag in all their posts, #stormnation and #ownit respectively. Brunswick commits ‘hashtag spam’ which clutters their captions and reduces overall efficacy of their hashtag use by diverting focus away from their main message

Finding 4: Difference in the faces of their Brand Ambassador Program

Brunswick’s choice of brand ambassadors tends to be well-accomplished professional bowlers that are past their prime, with the likes of Parker Bohn III, Walter Ray Williams Junior and Johnny Petraglia.

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Whereas both Storm and Roto Grip place a greater emphasis on recruiting budding professionals with fiery personalities or a unique selling point to be the face of their company, with Storm’s most prominent ambassador being Jason Belmonte, the world’s most famous two-handed bowler.

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4. Proposed Social Media Strategies for Brunswick

 Part 1: Revamping the Current Brand Ambassador Program

Brunswick should ensure that there is a good mix of ambassadors from various age groups to better represent their target audience. To supplement their existing brand ambassadors, Brunswick can consider young and talented bowlers like 28-year-old Anthony Pepe and 32-year-old Elizabeth Sienicki. They are ideal as their scope of influence centres around the younger consumers in the target audience that have yet to be reached by Brunswick’s current veteran ambassadors. Furthermore, these brand ambassadors should contribute to content generation, with a particular attention paid to original videos that are more personal, as self-made videos are an effective way at engaging the younger audience and creating buzz around the company.

Part 2: The Future of Brunswick

The next phase would be to ensure continuity of the brand ambassador program. My recommendation would be for Brunswick to utilise Facebook to discover talented league bowlers that are interested in turning pro and becoming a Brunswick brand ambassador. The final winner of the campaign will become a Brunswick’s brand ambassador alongside professional bowlers, entitling them to free equipment and bragging rights.

The “Future of Brunswick” campaign is a long-term initiative and will be carried out every 6 months to ensure a continued brand engagement and a steady stream of new talent in the program.

To kickstart this campaign, Brunswick will host an online competition in which interested participants are invited to post a video of themselves bowling which they are encouraged to make as entertaining as possible. The video caption should contain the simple hashtag, #BowlForBrunswick, to create greater brand advocacy for Brunswick and improve brand image when consumers see the large throng of league bowlers who are interested in fighting for a spot on Brunswick’s brand ambassador program. Entries in the initial stage will be judged by a combination of the number of “likes” and “shares” they manage to chalk up. After which, the top 20 entries in the initial stage will progress to the final stage of the challenge where they will compete in a bowl off to pit their skills against each other. In this final stage of the campaign, one winner will be crowned as Brunswick’s new brand ambassador.


Thank you for taking the time to read more about my report and hopefully I piqued your interest to learn more about Bowling in the process! Have a great weekend ahead!

Darshini

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