2005: Tiger goes from Gold to Platinum

By James Achenbach

Fifteen days after the conclusion of the Masters, Nike finally unveiled a television commercial glorifying the miraculous hole-out by Tiger Woods on the 16th hole of the final round.

“We waited on purpose,” said Chris Mike, director of marketing for Nike Golf, of the April 25 debut of the spot. “We didn’t want to take anything away from the moment. We weren’t in any hurry because we knew it would be talked about. It captured the imagination of the sports world.”

It also captured the attention of retailers, who wanted to sell the same Swoosh ball that tumbled into the cup at No. 16. That ball, which Nike calls the One Platinum, was responsible for a Platinum rush immediately after the Masters.

Nike officials said an original allocation of slightly more than 100,000 dozen One Platinum balls was gone in two days. Another smaller allocation was hurriedly planned, and it too was snapped up.

“We haven’t seen anything like this since 2000, when Tiger first put the Nike ball in play and then won four straight majors,” said Stan Grissinger, Nike Golf’s business director for golf balls.

“Balls started flying off the shelves then, and it’s happening again now. The only difference is that now we have a 10 percent market share (in the United States), and we’re much better preparedto deal with it. Back in 2000 we had less than a 1 percent market share.”

In print and on the air, Nike is telling the world: Woods won the Masters with the One Platinum.

There is only one small inaccuracy here: No golf ball named the Nike One Platinum appeared

on the U.S. Golf Association conforming ball list until May 4.

The ball used by Woods was called Nike One Gold TW. Before Woods headed to the first tee of the Masters, he was asked by Susan Naylor of the Darrell Survey what ball he was playing. “One Gold TW,”

he responded.

The Darrell Survey is the official record of equipment usage on the professional tours in the United States. Throughout 2005, Woods has been listed as using One Gold TW.

Nike’s explanation: The One Gold TW used by Woods is in fact the Nike One Platinum.

“We didn’t want people to find out about the ball,” Grissinger said, “so we avoided using a new name. We just called it by the same name, but used new markings.”

The conforming ball list reflects the fact that Woods’ 2005 One Gold TW had different markings (small dots) from his 2004 One Gold TW (small triangles).

Even though nobody talks about it, the Nike One Platinum played by Woods is not quite the same as the One Platinum offered to consumers. The construction and dimple pattern is identical, but the cover of the TW ball is slightly softer.

What is the distinction between One Black, One Gold and One Platinum, all of which carry a suggested retail price of $54 per dozen?

One Black goes the farthest. One Gold spins the most. One Platinum is in between.

“The One Platinum is engineered to be comparable in distance to the One Black, yet maintains feel and spin around the greens,” Grissinger said. “From 80 to 100 yards in, a golfer will notice a difference between the Platinum and the Black.”

This is not to say that all Nike staff players are flocking to the Platinum. Paul Casey and Mark Calcavecchia have stayed with One Gold. Stewart Cink, Justin Leonard and Rory Sabbatini still use

One Black.

The 16th hole television commercial was created by Wieden & Kennedy, Nike’s longtime advertising agency. To do so, three separate agreements had to be reached with the Masters, which owns the visuals, CBS Television, which owns the audio, and announcer Verne Lundquist, who made the call.

“This has been an adventure,” Mike said. “People always ask what impact Tiger has. I think this is going to be a case study of how a partnership like this works in the marketplace.”

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