2002: Business - Wilson counting on ‘Jack’ to be nimble

Wilson Golf has spent much of 2002 trying to reverse a ball business that has “declined markedly,” according to its most recent earnings report, because of an extremely competitive market and enormous pricing pressure.

In January, the Chicago-based business introduced the premium True ball amid great fanfare at the PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando, Fla. And now, it is rolling out a new value line for recreational players that consists of four different models.

“We have had a lack of focus in that category as we have built our premium club business, but that is changing,” said Luke Reese, vice president and general manager of Wilson Golf. “These are terrific new products, and we are going to make a very serious effort with them from a sales and marketing standpoint.”

Reese said the “lead dog” on this launch is the two-piece Wilson Jack, and the tagline for that product is: “If you think there’s a longer ball, then you don’t know Jack.”

“This is for the golfer who wants distance and wants to have fun,” he said. “And our tests show it is the longest ball on the market today. It has low compression, but its No. 1 characteristic is distance. And while our engineers had a small breakthrough from a research-and-development perspective, we have no intentions of talking about specific technologies. We just want to market the fact that the Jack, and the other balls in the line, give recreational golfers what they want.”

Added Tom Gruger, business director for golf balls at Wilson: “We found that the players we are trying to reach with these balls often get confused if you start talking technology. They want distance and value, and they want a brand name they can trust. And we think we can provide all of that with these new products.”

In addition to the Jack, the models in the value line will include the Spark for senior players, the Sonic for those looking for more control and the Cure for women, with the company making a donation from each purchase to breast cancer research. Those products begin shipping Sept. 1 and each carries a manufacturer’s suggested retail price of $19.99 per dozen (likely $15.99 in most stores). It also will be supported by a marketing campaign that focuses on fun and the Wilson brand.

Reese said that effort will be “audacious and aggressive,” and added that the company is borrowing heavily from advertising and promotional techniques used successfully in the candy and beer industries.

“We want to have a really strong brand message here,” Gruger said. “In the past, our recreational ball offerings were very splintered. We had Ultra, Hyper Ti and Smart-Core, for example, and they didn’t tell one story. But those balls will disappear, and we will have just those four models in that category.”















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