On this site more than three years ago, Callaway’s fearless marketing leader Harry Arnett outlined a new brand mission for Callaway that aimed to change golfers’ expectations of a golf company. To that end, he promised complete commitment to being the most transparent, the most connecting, and the most engaged brand in golf. And off we went.
One element of the ongoing effort to constantly evolve how a golfer experiences a golf company and its products has been the development of our in-house video production team, Callaway Media Productions. Its newest member is Amanda Balionis, who joined the team in April to handle on-air duties for the company’s original and partnership content.
— Amanda Balionis (@Amanda_Balionis) July 27, 2016
While that’s Amanda’s day job, she also moonlights as on-air talent during key professional events, including this week’s PGA Championship at Baltusrol. We sat down with Amanda to learn more about her role at the fourth major this week, her move to Callaway (from PGA TOUR Media) and what it means to her to connect directly with fans.
What is your role with Turner Sports this week and how did this opportunity come about?
Amanda: I will be doing all the post-round interviews for TNT, mainly Thursday and Friday, and then Saturday and Sunday coverage before they switch over to CBS.
I actually worked with Turner Sports before, they also run the PGA.com digital coverage. They hired me in 2012 for the PGA Championship and that was my first time working for the Turner family. And this year they brought me back in a new role, which I’m really excited about.
This is your first time covering a major championship for a network. How do you feel about being such an integral part of the broadcast?
Amanda: It’s an incredible opportunity. Getting the chance to cover the event on the network side is always a goal for this position; it’s something you’re always striving to be a part of. I’m excited to be here with the people I’m working with, and I’m telling myself to do the same things I’ve been doing, I’m just going to be on a bigger screen.
You’re a prominent figure in golf. You’ve been covering the Tour in multi-media for over 5 years. What’s your background been in broadcasting for golf and sports in general?
Amanda: I majored in broadcast journalism at Hofstra University and when I graduated, I started out on the sidelines in the New York area. And then in 2011, I interviewed for a digital position with PGATour.com. I thought it was such a great opportunity to cover professional sports. The PGA Tour really trained me from day one to learn the game of golf – to live it and breathe it.
— Amanda Balionis (@Amanda_Balionis) July 27, 2016
So I spent five years there, and that really got me into knowing the players, the courses and the people that surround the sport. And I was with them until this year when I joined Callaway.
Where does your passion for golf come from?
Amanda: Growing up I liked the game, but my passion really came from when I joined the PGA Tour and started to learn the players and storylines.. And getting to know their personalities, you become really involved in not only the meaning of the tournaments, but how certain wins can change guys’ lives, and what these players mean to the game overall.
And week-in and week-out you always had a reason to be excited. And that’s something that’s really special to this sport, is you always have a reason to watch and stay glued to watch.
You’ve been a full-time employee for Callaway since April, and you actually started on Masters week. What made you want to transition from your more traditional multi-media role into working for a golf manufacturer?
Amanda: I think it was the chance to do something new and innovative that hasn’t been done before. I’ve been working with and around the Callaway team for so many years and I knew that I loved their personalities, and their innovation, and that the company is always looking to try new things. And if it doesn’t work, we’ll just move on to the next thing.
— Amanda Balionis (@Amanda_Balionis) April 4, 2016
But Callaway always wants to be the newest, and the biggest, and the best and that is so appealing to me to be a part of something like that. So when this opportunity came up, I was excited that I got to be on the ground floor of something that was really new that the golf world has never seen. And that’s what’s been great is all of us figuring out together what this position looks like, what Callaway Media Productions looks like, what the potential is, and where we can grow and become bigger and better.
As you’ve mentioned, you’re the first dedicated correspondent for a golf company. In your position, what are some of your biggest goals in covering Callaway and engaging our fans in what we do?
Amanda: For me, what’s so appealing is that we can take our players and make them even more relatable. And I think that’s always a goal in golf. I think rooting for certain guys only happens when people know about them, and know about their stories. A personal goal is to show that all of our staffers are the kinds of players and people that fans want to root for. And I think we’ve started to do that with our “Shots Fired” segment where you get to know our guys in a really fun way.
I think my job, and our job with Callaway Media Productions, is to get those stories and get those personalities out there. And we’re trying to figure out new ways to do it.
You’re highly visible on our Callaway channels. Why do you think it’s so important for companys like ours to be able to interact and constantly communicate with fans?
Amanda: I think Callaway has done a great job with changing their image to one of the newer, cooler brands. And that’s so important, first because golf is viewed as an older sport. We talk about growing the game all the time, and to do that you have to go to the places where people are that you want to reach.
Ever wonder what it's like for the Callaway digital/marketing team after a major championship win?
Wonder no more:https://t.co/9CEJW4DYVM
— Callaway Golf (@CallawayGolf) July 19, 2016
And right now that place is social media, and on digital platforms. And I think we’re doing exactly the right thing by marketing ourselves, our players, all of that stuff on to mediums that reach all these younger platforms and get people interested in the game of golf.
This is the new way of talking to fans. Instead of having to write letters or emails, they can just tweet us, or make a suggestion instantly and get a pretty instantaneous response. It’s important for us at Callaway, and the game of golf in general.
What’s the experience been like so far working for Callaway?
Amanda: It’s been fun. One of the big things for me has been coming to a company where trying new things is important. And in the game of golf, it’s really difficult to find places that are eager to try new things without the fear of failing. And Callaway doesn’t have that fear. As Harry says, the only way you fail is if you don’t try. And that’s always kind of been my mentality in life.
So to find a company that really aligns with that way of thinking is so exciting to me. And the whole team is like that. Everyone works together to come up with the newest ideas. Like in Pittsburgh for the U.S. Open we wanted to highlight this city, and to have Jim Furyk on staff, a passionate Steeler fan and Pittsburgh fan in general, we thought about what we could do.
And the idea of calling up Heinz Field and to have Ben Roethlisberger there to do a shootout with Jim, that sounds ridiculous. But we got the green light to give it a shot and it all turned out beautifully.
Those are just the kind of things that a lot of other places are even scared to try. And Callaway backs us 100% to see it through. And maybe that’s a new way to reach someone who’s never even thought of golf before, and because of that piece now they’re on Callawaygolf.com checking out clubs.
You’ve seen Baltusrol and you’ve followed a lot of great players like Phil Mickelson during their practice rounds. How has the course looked and what can we expect this week?
Amanda: I didn’t really know what to expect before I got here. And I’ve been blown away by how awesome this course is. It’s right in front of you, but what’s really tricky is just that, the fact that it’s right in front of you. These greens are huge, but they’re so sneaky undulating that you really have to be on your game from tee-to-green.
This place is so pure. Baltusrol is going to be a fantastic challenge from tee to green.. Ready for Thursday on TNT! pic.twitter.com/pQhLyBgtuD
— Amanda Balionis (@Amanda_Balionis) July 26, 2016
If you miss fairways, it’s going to make your life so much more complicated. If you can’t putt, it’s going to make your life impossible. It’s definitely a bomber’s paradise. That’s not to say that this makes it impossible for the short hitters, but it plays like an entirely different golf course for the long hitters.
The consensus from the players seems to be that the PGA did a great job setting up this course. It’s a true test of all facets of their game.