Nike sees dollar signs in magical shot

Posted: Thursday, April 14, 2005

For Woods, it was a triumph. For Nike, it was a marketing coup — and a lucky one.

Some 2,750 miles away from the 16th hole at Augusta National, Nike Golf's director of marketing Chris Mike was scrambling for the phone. Nike, he suggested to a colleague, had the makings of its new ad campaign.

Through its nearly decade-long alliance with Woods, Nike has sought to gain ground in the golf equipment and apparel market. The company currently has a 9 percent slice of the golf ball market that's dominated by Titleist and Callaway Golf.

Because Woods hadn't won a major for two years, some believed that the perception of Nike equipment was tarnished, said Paul Swangard, director of the Warsaw Sports Marketing Center at the University of Oregon.

Then came The Shot.

''It really reinforced what Nike has been trying to get across — that they're a leading performance golf brand,'' Swangard said.

In another stroke of luck for Nike, the very ball that Woods seemed to telekinetically will into the cup — the One Platinum — hits the market next month. It will retail for a pricey $54 a dozen.

Nike first paired itself with Woods back in 1996. He signed a five-year endorsement deal with the company in 2000 for a reported $100 million, and has become such a major part of the company's endorsement stable — one stocked with superstars — that he has a building named after him at Nike's headquarters campus in Beaverton, a suburb of Portland.

Whether Nike can capitalize on Woods' feat through an ad campaign remains to be seen, however; Nike said it is working with Augusta National, which owns the rights to the footage.

''It was exciting in many different ways. It was exciting because it was a great moment in sports, and we always celebrate great moments in sports,'' said Nike Golf spokeswoman Joani Komlos. ''It was exciting because it was a great moment for a member of the Nike family and it was exciting because it was a great moment for a part of our business that we're very proud of.''

Nike seems to have a knack for hooking up with the right athletes at the right time.

When Brandi Chastain doffed her jersey after the U.S. Women's soccer team won the World Cup back in 1999, the sports bra splashed across newspapers worldwide was itself stitched with the swoosh.

''The Shangri-La is always unforgettable moments in sports that are linked to your brand,'' Swangard said.

''This was one of those moments.''

And certainly, with a stable of athletes that includes Woods, Michael Jordan and Lance Armstrong, Nike has done the right things to make sure it's in the right place, said Jim Andrews, executive editor of the IEG Sponsorship Report, a trade publication.

''Those three have obviously shown that Nike is very, very smart when it comes to sponsorships,'' he said.

But it remains to be seen whether Nike sells more golf balls — hype doesn't always translate to profits, Andrews said.

''There can be hype built around this kind of thing, but in six months it's anyone's guess whether the numbers will be there,'' Andrews said.

Komlos said Nike does expect to see great interest in its One Platinum ball after Woods' feat. ''We've seen time and time again that it does resonate with the average consumer,'' she said.

Woods' chip shot instantly became one of the most unforgettable moments in golf. He hit the ball and it caught the slope at just the right place before taking a right angle turn toward the hole.

It was still about 25 feet left of the hole when it began rolling slowly toward the pin, the swoosh tumbling over and over for the camera until its pause at the edge of the cup.

''A lot of it is luck, but I hit it pretty good,'' Woods said. ''I hit it right on the spot.''

This year, Augusta National allowed commercial time to just three advertisers: SBC Communications, IBM and Exxon Mobile. Only four minutes of commercial time was allowed per hour.

The Masters was aired commercial-free the previous two years after Martha Burk's high-profile protest of Augusta National's male-only member policy.

But it is Nike that has arguably gotten the most marketing mileage out of the tournament. It is estimated that the company already had received more than $1 million in free advertising after the shot was shown the 60th time somewhere on a television news broadcast.

At the Masters, Nike Golf announced that more players used its irons than any other brand at a PGA Tour event — even though it was rumored that the company paid some of the aging former champions to use its sticks. But having the most irons in play allows Nike to run advertisements telling everyone about it.



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