In 1997, Adidas Golf sprinkled some youth into its three-stripe personality and directed its marketing efforts toward the MTV generation of golf. The resulting shoe and apparel sales were less than impressive, leaving retailers across America grumbling. So in 2000, company executives brought in the wrecking ball and started fresh.
The first initiative was to build a product appealing to golfers who get their news from Peter Jennings rather than Jon Stewart. Also pivotal was changing the product’s distribution focus from sporting goods stores to golf retailers and providing the golf division its own management and sales team.
The moves have proven beneficial, both in the United States and overseas.
At the Algarve Open de Portugal in April, Adidas became the first golf footwear manufacturer in eight years to top FootJoy on the PGA European Tour’s weekly shoe count.
The company’s footwear market share in the United States has risen to 5.6 percent in May 2002 at on- and off-course shops compared with only 1 percent three years earlier. According to company officials, who wouldn’t give specifics, apparel sales have tripled since 2000 while this year’s figures are 35 percent to 40 percent ahead of last year’s pace.
Adidas officials, however, are far from satisfied. With FootJoy and Nike controlling 75 percent of the market, Adidas executives realize there is ample opportunity to chip away.
“(The shoe industry) is a three-horse race as it exists today,” says Paul Clark, global director of Adidas Golf. “We want to make sure we’re one of the brands of choice.”
The company has several initiatives planned for 2003, including the spring release of a Tour Performance (TP) shoe series. The three TP styles (Elite, Stripe and Saddle) will include innovations in the frame combined with the ClimaProof technology that guards against water and perspiration.
On the apparel end, Adidas will introduce a broader palate of colors in 2003 as well as a technical fabric called ClimaCool, which consists of a cool max extreme fabric that dries faster than other materials and helps slow the body’s heart rate. It is the newest addition to the company’s Clima series that accounts for 53 percent of apparel sales.
The first step in the new product developments began in April, when Adidas relocated its design and development factories to Carlsbad, Calif., from Herzogenaurach, Germany. The move was made primarily to boost American influence on the designs of footwear and apparel products that, according to several on-course retailers, still carry a European flavor.
“I think because of their tour representation and their most notable players (South Africa’s Ernie Els and Spain’s Sergio Garcia), there is still that perception,” says Tony Shinn, director of retail at Barton Creek Country Club in Austin, Texas.
Many green-grass shops like Shinn’s remain hesitant to stock the Adidas brand because of limited shelf space and the selling power of Nike and FootJoy.
For a while, the Adidas name was unstable in the golf industry. When Adidas entered the market in 1997, the fervor surrounding Tiger Woods was just beginning, and Adidas went right for the bait. The company targeted the youth market with nontraditional shoes such as the Mud Skipper, a spiked snow boarding-inspired boot.
“We were trying to use existing silhouettes from other sports and putting golf spikes on them and calling it a golf shoe,” Clark says.
The idea didn’t work. So Adidas changed the face of its products a year after merging with TaylorMade Golf in 1998 and tapping the equipment company’s resources.
Now – with a wide range of new products and a good deal of momentum in their corner – Adidas executives believe that their recognizable European name eventually can bring them American golf fame.