SWOOO AND IT’S GONE! OSH
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?