Tbilisi Hills Marketing Director on Bringing Golf Culture to Georgia


Iconsider it an honor to be a member of Tbilisi Hill’s team,” says Raimonds Elbakjans, Marketing Director of Tbilisi Hills Golf & Residences. “When I arrived in Georgia two years ago, I had no plans to work here, but when I saw this unique project, I could not hide my admiration. I immediately fell in love with the project. I have been leading Ghetto Games, the largest street sports movement in Europe, for last 12 years, but now golf and real estate is something new - an interesting challenge for me.”

Building pratical golf facilities in Georgia is no easy task. We asked him about the challenges the company faces and what plans they have to overcome them.

On one hand there are various sports federations; but on the other hand I believe that the work starts with the coaches as well as the parents who decide to teach their children this sport. We need to break the stereotype that golf is just a game for older people. This is not the case. Many of the expats who come to live in Georgia own the art of golf. They want to accustom Georgians to the culture of golf.

My 3-year plan is to attract 1000 Georgians to this sport. We have achieved great success in street sports in my country. We worked a lot with young people, which made it easier for us to figure out how to bring this culture to the younger generation. The values that golf experience entails are exactly the message we want to convey to Georgian society. It represents yet another elite language through which communication is possible worldwide. I’m a former professional basketball player, and therefore, I also use this language to communicate with people. I have a lot to do with Georgian basketball. Sanikidze and Markoshvili are my friends. We used to play against each other. However, from now on, we will play golf and become very active followers of this sport.

An active leader in the street sports movement in Latvia and Europe, Elbakjans received an award from the European Commission for promoting street sports activities among young people. Tell us more about it.

For me, this award was a big surprise. My colleagues submitted an application for me in secret. When I flew to Brussels for the awards ceremony, I came across people I’d never met before: officials, let us say snobs. Then I realized that we succeeded at delivering our voice to them from the street. It is said that youth is our future, but I have always believed that it is our present; and such was my attitude towards them. Being a leader of the largest youth movement in Europe has been a great honor. I was a very hyperactive and restless young man, I was often not understood at school or home, so I did my best to make this experience a useful project for youth. I have high hopes that we will be able to do the same in Georgia. In partnership with the local government, we envisage developing an interesting concept so that the youth of Georgia can share this happiness.

What are modern sports marketing trends? What is needed to develop a successful marketing strategy and how will Tbilisi Hills implement it?

Nowadays, everything, including sports, fashion and music, are considered in a single context. We cannot talk about sports as "sports", more like business: we should look at it that way. Amateur sports are now very trendy. People no longer want to sit on the podiums with beer and hot dogs in their hands. They have a need to become action heroes themselves. They realize that this is possible. You don’t have to break records to get into the pages of a newspaper to be recognized: you can simply open a Facebook page and share your personal achievements with the public there. It is important that each person can be a champion today and share their personal records with the world.

Earlier, the state determined which sports to develop in the country: sport was part of a unified policy. Now, there is complete freedom of choice. No frames. Sport has become very democratic. The type that delivers the best product, style and value system is most popular, and will always have a sponsor. The legal side is very strong today, too. Companies are privately owned and are united in holdings, so it is very important to create a healthy platform for their products.

People who come to Tbilisi Hills are attracted to a healthy lifestyle. They want to be united around golf and to share their lifestyle with others. Age doesn’t matter. People compete with themselves, in improving personal records, as well as with those around them. Ultimately, the most important thing is to best yourself.

Does this mean that golf is a key element of Tbilisi Hills's marketing strategy? Are there any other areas in terms of marketing strategy?

Any marketing strategy should be based on a good quality product only. In the case of Tbilisi Hills, all products, from construction to golf, have a quality mark. That's why it is so easy to work with this company, otherwise I wouldn’t be doing this.

None of the strategies make sense if the product quality is low. Therefore, as an agency, we always closely monitor the technical side of the project so that the company does not make the mistakes that many of its predecessors did. It is vital not to miss the value system that we so actively position ourselves in. As for golf, it's more a matter of our social responsibility.

Golf is the language through which people are able to communicate with interesting, elite, well-mannered people around the world. It is true that even golf becomes quite democratic. We are also planning an activity in the city center where anyone can touch this game in person, and realize that it is not something inaccessible. Ultimately, though, for us, golf is a tool to help us create the community group we want to be in. It can be said that we are building a new city in the city of Tbilisi.

What is needed to attract sponsors in sports?

It is our values that determine the relationship with a future sponsor. If we have a good idea of what the project is based on and what we can offer to customers, it will not be difficult to attract a sponsor.

I don’t see any point in standard advertising today. People want to see open relationships between partners; share the ideology that the company and its partners offer. The relationship with our sponsors is largely based on the social aspect. We need to address people’s social issues and improve their quality of life.

Marketing welcomes innovations. Do you have any innovative strategies in store that you will use in relation to Tbilisi Hills in the future?

The most innovative marketing strategy in Georgia will be "We do not lie". We are sincere with our customers, and our relationship with any visitor to Tbilisi Hills is based solely on mutual trust. We want to create a public space where there is no lying and we consider sports, art and the necessary conditions for rest and relaxation as the basis of that public space. Our slogan is: SWING INTO YOUR DREAMS, so we believe that where art and sport meet, and where the environment in which people are present has a quality mark, space is born for new dreams and lofty goals. Our strategy and goal is to build healthy community in Georgia.


30 July 2020 20:46