Golf Asia (Malaysia) - - SCENE -

Last Au­gust, Nike stopped mak­ing golf equip­ment. So why couldn’t the world’s most ruth­lessly suc­cess­ful sports com­pany con­vince us to buy their clubs and balls? The an­swer, as Richard Gil­lis re­veals, tells us as much about the busi­ness of golf as it does about the sports gi­ant it­self.

The Nike Swoosh be­gan to ap­pear on golf cour­ses in the 1980s on the arms and feet of Cur­tis Strange and Seve Balles­teros but it was a long time be­fore the world’s big­gest sports brand en­tered the equip­ment mar­ket. Tiger Woods won the 2000 US Open with the Nike Tour Ac­cu­racy ball and David Du­val won the 2001 Open at Lytham us­ing Nike forged irons. Of course, there have been high­lights along the way, but af­ter a 15-year jour­ney Nike is back to where it started in golf – mak­ing ap­parel and footwear.

With the prom­ise of at­tract­ing a whole new au­di­ence, Nike backed up their com­mit­ment to golf with a mas­sive mar­ket­ing out­lay. How­ever, the brand never snared more than a 10% mar­ket share in clubs or balls. Golf contributed $706 mil­lion to Nike rev­enues in the last fi­nan­cial year; small fry com­pared to the $27.2 bil­lion gen­er­ated by the whole com­pany over the same ac­count­ing pe­riod. What’s more, golf was Nike’s worstper­form­ing cat­e­gory in its last fis­cal year, as sales fell 8%. Golf as a whole was also the only seg­ment to lose sales on a con­stant cur­rency ba­sis and has be­come Nike’s small­est rev­enue con­trib­u­tor.

While these fig­ures help ex­plain the de­ci­sion to leave, an ob­vi­ous ques­tion hangs in the air. Given that Nike is the most suc­cess­ful busi­ness in sports, why did it find golf such a hard nut to crack?

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