It’s not unusual to watch a golf club company claim that it has the superior product in the marketplace. As a matter of fact, it’s expected.
This time, it’s personal, which leads us to a heavyweight battle now underway, one of those moments in which a company not only extols its product’s own virtues, but also goes directly at one of its competitors.
In this corner from Beaverton, Or., the Nike SQ Dymo Str8-Fit, with its eight ball flight options, including three open, three closed and two neutral.
In the other corner from Carlsbad, Ca., the R9 from TaylorMade-adidas Golf with its Flight Control Technology that allows its user to change face angle, loft and lie angle.
Nike has touched off a public battle for market share in drivers, more specifically adjustable drivers, with an aggressive campaign that claims its Dymo Str8-Fit gets more distance than the R9, according to its consumer testing. Take a look at it on the Nike Golf Canada website here.
This new campaign will soon be appearing on websites and in print ads and will be visible at upcoming demo days according to Rob Arluna, global golf club business director for Nike Golf.
“It started as a grassroots effort. Once both products got in the market, we started hearing from our customers and sales force,” said Arluna, who added that further testing led to Nike taking the show on the road in order for the results to be statistically significant.
“We went out all across the country in all different markets here in the U.S. and we put together a head-to-head test on launch monitors with hundreds of golfers and tested our driver versus the R9 in every conceivable position and we were kind of astounded with the results,” said Arluna.
An aggressive campaign such as this should not come as a surprise, he added.
“I think you’re seeing it more and more as the market gets more and more competitive. For us, it was a story that we felt we had to tell because the story was too good,” said Arluna.
“I think that, in a time right now, where we have the woes of the economy, we’re trying to create some energy in the golf industry and get people excited and drive them to retail and trying to lift the entire industry by getting people out there and getting people excited by innovation again,” he added.
Richard Sullivan, director of marketing for TaylorMade-adidas Golf Canada, counters by saying people were already excited about innovation with the R9.
“The difference is we have 24 positions compared to our competition, which has eight. Therefore, we offer a much better option at the exact same price in the marketplace. We continue to innovate and we’re the No. 1 driver on tour,” said Sullivan.
“Their hosel is much larger. Ours is bore-through, so when you look down at address, our club is much more appealing. Secondly, if you include Moveable Weight Technology, we have 75 yards of dispersion. I don’t even know what they’re advertising – 30, 35, something like that,” he said.
“All I know is we’re the No. 1 driver on tour and we’re continuing to maintain our dominant position with over 30 per cent market share in Canada, which continues to grow,” said Sullivan.
This battle of the heavyweight adjustable driver companies could set up a summer in which TaylorMade strikes back with a campaign of its own, but there is nothing planned yet with Nike’s campaign just getting underway.
“We’ll have to see if there’s a reaction from the competition,” said Arluna. “We’re comfortable with everything we’ve put out there. We’re only dealing with facts and we believe we’ve got the product innovation that can stand up against anybody, so I think it’s a story that needs to be told to consumers.”
Sullivan obviously disagrees with Nike’s claims, but in the end, he says the only number that counts is market share.
“They can advertise whatever they want. The fact of the matter is the R9 driver is the No. 1 model on tour. Who’s using the Str8-Fit?
“The secondary brands are always chasing the leader,” he added. “We’ve seen a lot of desperate moves by a lot of other manufacturers to try and steal some of our dominant market share, but the consumer still makes the decision and it’s validated by the market share in Canada,” he said.
“We thank the competition for advertising the No. 1 driver in golf,” said Sullivan.
It’s only early May. Does it suddenly feel warmer than usual?