New era for Nike golf dawns with
understated Day launch

Swoosh swoops for World Number One with New Year’s Day campaign that proves it’s still a Major player – but what can the industry learn from this solid, if unspectacular, unveiling of the game’s top talent?

As the rest of us were no doubt lying comatose on our respective sofas come January 1 – either as the result of general festive overindulgence or more in-line with the enthusiastic consumption of the evening prior – Jason Day was busy being welcomed into a new club.

The #NikeGolfClub, to be exact, as the 29-year old Major winner was unveiled as the latest marquee signing by the company that only five months earlier had looked like it was winding up its offering when it announced that it was leaving the equipment business.

That could not have been further from the truth however, with Day reportedly having been signed up to a $10 million a year deal, as Nike aims to retain its supposed $500 million share in the sport’s “soft goods” market – e.g. shirts, shoes, hats and gloves.

NIKE’S ACE IN THE HOLE

Launched with an understated but well-crafted video that has already had over one million views online, Day is featured discussing how he makes his rather chilly existence in the frozen wilds of Ohio work for his sport, which so often sees its stars seek the reassuring winter warmth of Arizona, Florida or even Dubai in the off-season.

The clip is a nice aside from the usual glitz and glamour of other such launches, and quite in-keeping with a man that has quietly gone about becoming one of the game’s most complete and impressive talents over the past decade.

Understated, sure; but no one can question the results so far – already racking up millions of views across Nike’s owned platforms, as well as being linked to from industry publications and opinion former websites and social media.

Jason Day also has a large social following himself, which has been leveraged, as he amplified the content on their behalf. Further proof of the benefit to brands of engaging with ambassadors who are active on social media and boast a large personal fan base.

JUST DO IT

Whatever opinion you have of the content itself, there is no faulting its timing. With the social media managers of countless brands still working on their respective resolutions or taking down the Christmas decorations, Nike got the jump on everyone – proving its iconic catchphrase was more than just that, but an ethos that runs through the wider business.

There were few other brands making such a big noise at this first opportunity to mark the new year, which left a captive audience across golf, sport and the wider social media space. Hungry for “couch-friendly content”, Nike delivered a reassuringly delicious meal that was less Michelin star and more refined gastro-pub, which was certain to delight a simple, yet refined, palette.

DID NIKE LEAVE ANYTHING ON THE COURSE?

The only caveat in our minds is whether a different talent would have commanded greater fanfare to accompany such an unveiling – as, despite his status at the top of the Official World Golf Rankings, Day is yet to transcend the sport in the same way as Woods, McIlroy or perhaps even Jordan Spieth have done in recent time.

Nike boasts an overall marketing budget of some $2 billion, so this simple video production, accompanying imagery and (we would assume a hefty) media spend was a mere drop in the ocean. However, as low cost campaigns go, it does look to have maximised its return in terms of those readily available social media metrics.

Time will tell as to its wider success, which we would assume is a greater awareness of Nike’s revamped golf product and an accompanying upturn in sales across the coming season.

If you can put that to one side though, there is no doubting the buzz this news created amongst the industry, on an otherwise slow news day, which would make it hard to argue that it did not do a good job on face value.

WHAT NEXT FOR THE BIG CAT AND HIS HEIR APPARENT?

Nike will hope this understated but seemingly successful approach can work to bolster its reputation within the sport in light of its endorsement offering having been so diluted by its existing marquee stars – Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy – looking for new equipment deals.

It marks an interesting period for the sport commercially, as the industry standard of players being signed up to all-in equipment and apparel deals comes to an end.

Day had previously been tied into TaylorMade-Adidas, but with the latter winding up its golf offering, the Australian was free to sign with Nike. This is now also the case for both Woods and McIlroy, but in reverse, as both have either inked new deals to close out 2016 or are rumoured to be dabbling with new equipment.

Woods has already signed a multi-million-dollar deal with Bridgestone to use their golf balls, while McIlroy is rumoured to be putting a series of new clubs into play this month, with Callaway, Odyssey and Titleist rumoured to be the supposed benefactors – although he has no plans to sign with anyone just yet.

A CHANGE IS AS GOOD AS A REST

It therefore promises to be an interesting few months to start the new season (which is in fact already under way on both the European and PGA Tours), as two-time Masters winner Bubba Watson signs with Korean ball manufacturer Volvik. The company, known for its multi-coloured balls, has already made a splash in the women’s game, which has also seen its top player switch club manufacturer for 2017.

New Zealand’s Lydia Ko, multiple Major winner and World Number One at just 19, has left Callaway for embryonic equipment brand PXG.

Exciting times afoot then, amidst reports that continue to suggest the sport is in decline – both on the course and commercially speaking. How brands look to counter this in the year ahead should therefore make for interesting viewing, as they look to inject a bit of life into the sport with more launches and activations of this kind going forward.

The Day deal promises to therefore be just the tip of the iceberg, which seems rather fitting, considering the rather chilly Ohioan company he chooses to keep.