2000: Nike could launch clubs as early as 2001

For more than five months a task force at Nike Golf has been exploring strategies to enter the golf club business – a debut that could occur as early as next year, according to a company official.

While many have speculated about Nike Golf’s entry into the club category, comments from its marketing director, Mike Kelly, confirmed the existence of a task force on club making and Nike Golf’s interest in marketing its own line of clubs.

Kelly said Sept. 5 there was no official timetable for the introduction of swoosh-brand clubs, but added that a 2001 debut was a possibility.

“There’s a good chance that you’ll see some kind of a Nike Golf club next year,” Kelly said. He declined to specify when during the year such a launch might occur.

The eight-member task force was formed in the spring to explore ways the Beaverton, Ore.-based company could manufacture clubs. In addition to Kelly, the special committee includes the following Nike Golf staff: Bob Wood, president; Chris Zimmerman, general manager; Doug Holt, director of U.S. sales; Dean Harvey, director of international marketing; Kel Devlin, director of sports marketing; Stan Grissinger, category business director for golf balls; and Mark Thaxton, Nike’s representative for the PGA Tour.

The task force’s efforts intensified after Tiger Woods’ switch to a customized version of the Nike Golf Tour Accuracy ball raised Nike Golf’s profile as an equipment company, Kelly said.

“We think we’ve made tremendous inroads into the equipment category with the ball, and now we want to explore it more thoroughly,” he said. “We’ve discussed acquisitions and (original equipment manufacturer) agreements. We’ve certainly considered designing it and then sourcing it out (to a contracted manufacturer). We’ve been meeting with independent designers, manufacturers, foundries and component suppliers both in the U.S. and around the world.”

Kelly would not identify potential business partners and insisted that no club deal had yet been finalized. He declined to comment on reports that Nike Golf is considering a licensing deal with Mizuno in which the respected Japanese club maker would make swoosh-brand clubs for Nike.

However, a Mizuno USA spokesman, said such speculation was off base.

“There is no validity to that rumor,” said Andrew Levinson, a Mizuno spokesman. “We have always concentrated on establishing our own brand, and we plan to continue doing that. While we respect Nike, we have no desire to (make clubs for them) at this time.”

Nike Golf is looking into creating swoosh-brand putters, too. Kelly said Nike officials have met with club designers Bobby Bettinardi and Kevin Burns and had each of them create putter “samples” bearing the swoosh logo.

“The putters are floating around the Nike campus, but none of our tour players have tested them,” Kelly said. “It’s just part of the exploratory process.”






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