U.S. Polo Assn. Has a Remarkably Cutting Edge Digital Strategy

By Peter Page Peter Page has been verified by Muck Rack's editorial team
Published on May 19, 2022

Polo is seen by most people as more of a hobby for the rich than a major sport, but at least in terms of digital presence, polo is about as big as it gets. U.S. Polo Assn., official brand of the United States Polo Association is ranked among the top global licensors in the world, alongside such iconic sports brands as the National Football League, the National Basketball Association and Major League Baseball.

Grit Daily asked J. Michael Prince, president and CEO of USPA Global Licensing (USPAGL), and Jose Nino, USPAGL vice president for Global Digital Strategy and Ecommerce about the importance of a digital presence when growing a company.

Grit Daily: What is your goal for expanding the digital presence for U.S. Polo Assn.?

We started executing our strategic, digital journey in late 2018 and accelerated its expansion amid the challenging pandemic environment, when many of our stores were closed around the world. The acceleration continues as we focus on digital in this post pandemic environment.  

While we continue to roll out our digital footprint via additional e-commerce sites, brand sites, marketplaces and social media, we will also be investing in other newly emerging online environments. For example, we have already purchased a portfolio of crypto and decentralized domains, as we envision a Web3 environment for U.S. Polo Assn. Additionally, we will be participating in other evolving digital channels such as e-sports, which will further enhance our online visibility.

From a social media expansion perspective, engagement starts with expanding brand presence within 1) new platforms like TikTok or Metaverse, 2) pivoting seamlessly towards trending media mediums like video or AVR, and 3) cultivating a more engaging relationship with followers.  

Grit Daily: What are the most important performance indicators to track when growing a digital presence?

We know that it’s not enough to just have fans or followers anymore, it’s critical to engage with them to get real and useful metrics. 

For example, our global Marketing Team executes iconic, on-brand photography throughout the year that helps build brand engagement metrics, through both exciting creative and quality product. The results of each of these shoots, which take place in various beautiful locations like Coachella, the Rocky Mountains and Miami Beach, are hundreds of images and video content that’s used in marketing campaigns around the world. In addition, every year sees at least one  Polo Player Photo Shoot where our U.S. Polo Assn. polo player brand ambassadors are featured  playing and posing in our sport-inspired apparel, and further demonstrating the authentic  connection between our brand and the sport.

Our global portfolio of brand sites routinely ranks at the top of our competitive space, thanks to  traffic-driving strategies that create an impactful first impression through exciting content that  keeps consumers coming back for more.

Another important indicator for us is around technical performance. While bandwidth and  speed continue to globally expand, websites sometimes oversaturate the consumer facing, front  end experience. Obviously, our global portfolio of websites is responsive, so that mobile  applications load a lighter weight application. But we are also very sensitive to back-end applications as well. Many of our global sites are built in headless environments. This  dramatically reduces the load of unnecessary resources, which improves page load time,  thereby earning us SEO brownie points. Therefore, efficient full stack execution is an important  performance indicator as well.

Grit Daily: In terms of digital brand presence, how do US brands differ from the rest of the world?

From a marketing perspective, sales channels are different globally and, in some countries, shopping  on 3rd party websites and apps is more common than owned e-commerce and in-store. Therefore,  international brands like ours need to localize in order to be successful in many different countries.  The content and advertising of a U.S. brand will focus on the American experience and interests,  including sports, style, music, celebrities, and trends, while in countries around the world, their  digital marketing celebrates much of their own culture. In addition, we are inclusive with our  messaging and looking to connect with different audiences. Engagement is the primary focus, and  social media helps facilitate our participation in overall online discourse.

U.S. brands can also pivot their efforts by partnering with nano-influencers or cultivate more  intimate spaces in platforms like Clubhouse, Reddit and the Metaverse. It’s all about providing their  audience the opportunity to buy into a personalized experience that feel special.

Additionally, our portfolio of global sites is available in 17 languages. We have adapted e-commerce  experiences to cater to marketplace and live commerce preferences. Therefore, in the United  States, our brand’s domestic digital DTC footprint is mostly served by our popular e-commerce  website. However, in China, our focus instead is on creating rich shopping experiences on  marketplace and live commerce platforms like TMall, Xiaohongshu, Kaola, Douyin, and  Kuaishou. And in Turkey, where a hybrid approach works best, we not only have a popular DTC e commerce website, but are also heavily vested in marketplaces such as Trendyol, Hepsiburada, and  others.

Some brands may have a different approach, often leveraging a “one size fits all” solution like a  cross border website that inherently miss on the aforementioned KPIs. We strive in delivering  localized experiences for our truly global brand!

Grit Daily: Polo is not yet a major sport in the US. How are you trying to expand the audience and get  current fans more engaged? Do those goals overlap in terms of tactics?

A primary focus for USPAGL and U.S. Polo Assn. is to bring more exposure to the USPA’s top polo events  and build the authentic connection between the sport and brand. Late last year, the brand’s 60-minute  made-for-TV sports broadcast show, The World of Polo, aired on CBS, CBS Sports Network, Eurosport,  Eurosport India and beIN Sports, and garnered over 6.5M viewers.

In addition, the Gauntlet of Polo Series, one of the most prestigious high-goal tournaments to take place  in the U.S., aired on ESPN, the world’s leading sports entertainment brand. Through its entertainment  and media subsidiary of USPA Global Licensing Inc. (USPAGL), Global Polo Entertainment signed this landmark deal with ESPN gave exposure to millions of new viewers in the U.S. and abroad.

Also part of the deal with ESPN is the airing of the XII FIP World Polo Championships, last held in  Australia, this year in Palm Beach County, Fla., this coming October. The goal of this symbiotic and  historic deal with ESPN is to reach more sports fans in the U.S. and attract new audiences by delivering  more polo sport and lifestyle content in new ways.

For more involved fans, Global Polo Entertainment launched Global Polo TV, a subscriber-based media  service the world’s leading digital platform with polo and lifestyle content. There are currently 13,000  paid subscribers with some content available for free.

Finally, as part of the on-going support of polo’s young athletes, U.S. Polo Assn.’s Collegiate Program has  been an initiative that has supported some 50 college teams and helped the brand connect with  consumers that are up-and-coming ambassadors. Part of the partnership has the young polo players  showing their enjoyment of the game and their gear provided by U.S. Polo Assn. by posting engaging social media content.

Grit Daily: What is your goal for expanding the digital presence for U.S. Polo Assn.?

USPAGL has been able to build on the strategies it implemented throughout the pandemic to generate  record growth in online shopping. Fast tracking digital has resulted in the doubling of sales online,  depending on the region. U.S. Polo Assn. continues to build global momentum on social media  exceeding 7 million followers worldwide.  Digital Commerce 360, the industry’s trade bible, recently included U.S. Polo Assn.’s e-commerce business  as a TOP 500 retailer for the first time ever. We are also making good progress in our global website  ranking, powered by Amazon’s Alexa analytics. Both achievements further demonstrate our robust digital  growth and the continued expansion of the brand’s overall digital relevance.

By Peter Page Peter Page has been verified by Muck Rack's editorial team

Journalist verified by Muck Rack verified

Peter Page is the Contributions Editor at Grit Daily. Formerly at Entrepreneur.com, he began his journalism career as a newspaper reporter long before print journalism had even heard of the internet, much less realized it would demolish the industry. The years he worked a police reporter are a big influence on his world view to this day. Page has some degree of expertise in environmental policy, the energy economy, ecosystem dynamics, the anthropology of urban gangs, the workings of civil and criminal courts, politics, the machinations of government, and the art of crystallizing thought in writing.

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