2001: New balls shift Wilson brand

Wilson Golf, which this spring began offering 2-for-1 dozens of its Smart-Core balls, Sept. 1 re-enters the $25-a-dozen segment of the ball market with a new line.

The new product, however, represents more than an addition to the Wilson lineup; it introduces a new branding strategy consumers are likely to see for years to come.

Although Wilson’s recent ball initiatives have focused on a technology such as i-Wound, Smart-Core or, a few years ago, Staff Titanium, the next introduction will emphasize the Wilson Staff brand – drawing on a heritage established by its former line of forged irons and on Wilson’s staff of more than 3,000 local professionals who play Wilson balls.

The new line, named Pro Distance, will come in three models – Tour, Straight and Women’s. The balls have softer urethane cores and are somewhat longer than the Smart-Core line, according to Luke Reese, general manager of the Wilson Golf division of Wilson Sporting Goods, based in Chicago. The Tour, as its name suggests, is designed to have the most spin of the three. The Women’s model is designed to have the highest trajectory within the new line. Reese said Wilson’s tests show the Tour is “a couple of yards” longer than Titleist’s Pro V1, while the Straight is three yards longer than another leading ball, the Precept MC Lady.

And the packaging, with a black theme, will show the names of its staff professionals in small, background type. Advertisements promoting the ball will use the line, “Every time you stand over a Wilson Staff, 3,000 pros stand with you.”

Even the balls will be marked differently – more like Titleist balls. Only the Wilson logo, the word Staff and the number will appear prominently on the ball, with the name Pro Tour, for example, stamped in small print on another part of the ball.

“We’re going to brand the company, not the technology,” said Reese. “We want people to identify the ball they play as a Wilson Staff first.”

Smart-Core will continue to be sold – at the aggressive prices introduced this spring. The 2-for-1 offer has resulted in an increase in market share at on- and off-course golf shops, even without counting the free dozens, according to Reese. Reese is evaluating whether to begin selling Smart-Core in the mass merchant channel at stores such as Target.

The i-Wound, too, will continue in the lineup, remaining Wilson’s most expensive ball with a dozen priced in the $35 range.










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