2002: Precept seeks higher share with U-Tri

By GENE YASUDA

Precept has set its sights on wresting ball marketshare from some of its higher-priced brethren.

But don’t expect the Japanese equipment company to unveil balls that sell for $40 per dozen – or more – to challenge super-premium offerings from the likes of Titleist, Callaway and Nike. Rather, try $25 on for size.

Building on the success of the $20-per-dozen MC Lady, which elevated Precept’s reputation for producing high-quality balls at affordable prices, the company has unveiled two models that aren’t budget-busters and feature technology usually reserved for pricier balls: U-Tri Extra Distance and U-Tri Extra Spin.

Unlike many existing balls in the mid-$20s price range that feature Suryln covers, each of Precept’s new offerings are made with the more coveted urethane, which optimizes spin and touch on approach shots and green-side play. In addition, the U-Tri models, unlike many two-piece counterparts in the same price category, feature a more sophisticated construction, comprising three-pieces: a high-energy core, an inner cover and an outer urethane cover.

The U-Tri balls, which will replace Precept’s Extra Distance and Extra Spin, carry a suggested retail price of $38 per dozen, but actually are expected to sell at pro shops and golf stores for approximately $25. Precept officials say they can sell the U-Tri at moderate prices because their manufacturing processes are more efficient and their marketing budgets are less lavish than competitors.

“You have to wonder where all the money is going when you spend $45 for golf balls,” said Stephen Graham, Precept’s director of marketing. “Either there are a lot of folks getting rich or there’s a lot of money being spent on tour contracts and advertising.”

Precept’s new initiative, however, is being driven as much by necessity as desire. Since the MC Lady’s grass-roots sales phenomenon exploded in early 2001, Precept has seen marketshare for its most successful ball erode as competitors – including Maxfli’s Noodle – retaliated with their own “super-soft” balls. Furthermore, Precept’s conservative approach to marketing has failed to give its priciest offering, the Tour Premium LS, the exposure necessary to capture sufficient marketshare in the ball category’s high-rent district.

By avoiding a toe-to-toe marketing battle with Titleist, Callaway and Nike, Precept may indeed be able to broaden its consumer base. Graham said the U-Tri’s price is optimal, too: “At 29.99, you’re in no man’s land. It’s too expensive for golfers seeking a good value, and it’s too low for golfers who feel they have to pay exorbitant prices to get performance.”

But Graham also concedes Precept’s pricing strategy has a downside: Some golfers may perceive the U-Tri to be “too cheap” to be considered a true high-performance ball.

For such skeptics, all Precepts officials ask is that they give the new balls a try. The most noticeable difference between the two is their ball flight. The U-Tri Extra Distance has less spin and a higher launch angle, producing a high, straight trajectory off the tee, officials say. By comparison, the U-Tri Extra Spin delivers more spin, allowing players to work the ball more easily.



















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