Golf contest drives over $100K for


Matt Coen

Golf season is a great opportunity for newspapers to drive digital revenue by running promotions, such as contests and cards. Below is a case study on how the Wisconsin State Journal made $100K with its golf contest. To learn more about how to be successful with golf cards, read: "Why a Golf Deal Card Works in Every Market."

The Wisconsin State Journal, a part of Lee Enterprises, is a 104,000-circulation daily newspaper in Madison, Wis. The paper has been running online contests on its website,, since 2008.

The Idea's Mulligan Match-Up was an online PGA golf contest that ran in conjunction with a Golf Guide special section in the Wisconsin State Journal. The paper formatted the online contest to mirror a previous version that had only been run in print through the Wisconsin State Journal.

The Execution
Mulligan Match-Up ran for 24 weeks, starting with the beginning of the pro golf season in April continuing through the end of the playoffs in October. The contest was sponsored by 18 local golf courses, some that the paper had worked with before but others that were new advertisers.

The sponsorship package, which included all of the elements listed below, was valued at more than $13,000.

Sponsorship Package

  • One half-page ad in the Wisconsin State Journal Golf Guide special section ($1,350 value)
  • Two 2-col. x 3" ads in the paper each week for 18 weeks ($4,100+ value)
  • Prominent placement on promotional teasers for the Mulligan Match-Up contest
  • Constant exposure on the sports homepage, which links to the contest
  • Full color ¼-page promo ad featuring each golf course during the contest ($2,500+ value)
  • List of email opt-ins

As you can see in the one-sheet below, charged $6,200 for each sponsorship, although the courses could opt to sponsor 18 weeks worth of prizes – 18 rounds of golf for four – in exchange for a $2,000 discount. The paper generated $102,288 as a result.

To promote the contest, ran 3×6 teaser ads almost daily leading up to the first tournament. They also ran a 5×6 teaser ad each week featuring one of the 18 sponsoring golf courses. You can see examples of each teaser ad below.

All of the print ads run in the Wisconsin State Journal encouraged readers to participate online at The online welcome page had a link that read, "Click here to view weekly deals at our sponsoring golf courses," and directed viewers to a landing page featuring the ads that had run in the paper that week.

Each week, $250 was awarded to the top scorer and – to make sure that everybody got a shot at winning something big – a free round of golf for four from each of the courses that had chosen to sponsor a prize was given away in a random drawing. The total value of the 402 prizes given away during the contest was $47,958, and each week the results were published in the Sunday paper.

The Results, the Wisconsin State Journal, and the sponsoring golf courses all benefited greatly from the Mulligan Match-Up, and the paper plans to continue to run it each season.

The contest was tremendously popular, with more than 2,700 entries received each week and thousands of email opt-ins generated overall. In fact, the Mulligan Match-Up was so successful and popular with both the participants and the sponsors that extended it into the playoffs. Nine sponsors continued on for the extended portion of the contest.

The promotion generated $102,288 in revenue for the Wisconsin State Journal.

After the final match-up of the season, modified the welcome page of the Mulligan Match-Up to promote its next contest, a local Bump 'n' Run football contest, which brings about the same amount of revenue as the Mulligan Match-Up and has just as much participation.

Why It Worked:

  • The paper secured multiple sponsors, which allowed it to generate more revenue than it could have from a single sponsor.
  • Sponsors were encouraged to trade valuable prizes in exchange for a discounted sponsorship.
  • Weekly prizes to the top-scoring players were supplemented by random drawings each week, which encouraged players to persist with the contest even if their scores were low.
  • The Wisconsin State Journal promoted the contest heavily both in print and online on

Matt Coen is the president and co-founder of Second Street, a leading provider of private-label online promotions platforms and partner success services for media companies based in St. Louis, Mo. He can be reached at (314) 880-4902 or

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