2006: Nike - Changing everything

Without question, Tiger’s impact is most evident at Nike Golf.

These days, it’s becoming increasingly harder to remember when Nike wasn’t a major player in the sport. After all, its burgeoning tour staff is making it to the winner’s circle this season more often than many of its competitors’ players.

Bob Wood’s memory, however, isn’t so short. The president of Nike’s golf division is quick to remind anyone about the naysayers who scoffed at his company’s efforts to crack the equipment business. They dismissed Nike as a marketing company that would do nothing more than stamp a “swoosh” on inferior products.

“People were openly contemptuous about our ball effort,” says Wood, sounding like he holds a grudge against critics almost as long as Woods himself.

But everything changed June 18, 2000. On that day, Tiger – who recently had switched to a Nike golf ball – demolished the field at the U.S. Open, winning the event at Pebble Beach by a record 15-stroke margin.

“It was an earthquake for us,” Wood says. “Our profile as a golf company completely, fundamentally and inalterably changed that day.”

Tiger’s feat validated Nike’s solid-core technology and fast-forwarded the company’s plans to enter the club market. The result? Nike Golf’s sales eclipsed $600 million for its fiscal year ended May 31, making it the sport’s fourth-largest company. It trails only Acushnet (maker of Titleist, FootJoy, Cobra and Pinnacle products), Callaway and TaylorMade-Adidas, all of whom possess multiple brands compared with Nike’s one.

Determining how much of Nike Golf’s overall success is attributable to Woods is difficult. After all, Nike Inc. is a $15 billion company that has applied many of its significant resources to make Nike Golf what it is today.

Trying to calculate Tiger’s contributions – his line of Tiger Woods apparel, his consulting work in creating products and his appearances in more than 30 Nike commercials – only provides an equation that fails to address his priceless intangibles.

“If that’s all you’re concerned about,” Wood says, “you’ve totally missed the point about having an athlete like Tiger.”

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