Nike big winner on Tiger's shot

Thursday, April 14, 2005

BEAVERTON, Ore. -- It was a Masters moment that will forever linger in memory: Tiger Woods' chip shot crawling to the lip of the cup, the ball teetering for what seemed like an eternity, its tiny swoosh slowly rolling up into view before dropping in.

For Woods, it was a triumph. For Nike, it was a marketing coup -- and a lucky one.

Some 2,750 miles away from the 16th hole at Augusta National, Nike Golf's director of marketing Chris Mike was scrambling for the phone. Nike, he suggested to a colleague, had the makings of its new ad campaign.

Through its nearly decade-long alliance with Woods, Nike has sought to gain ground in the golf equipment and apparel market. The company currently has a 9 percent slice of the golf ball market that's dominated by Titleist and Callaway Golf.

Because Woods hadn't won a major for two years, some believed that the perception of Nike equipment was tarnished, said Paul Swangard, director of the Warsaw Sports Marketing Center at the University of Oregon.

Then came "The Shot."

"It really reinforced what Nike has been trying to get across -- that they're a leading performance golf brand," Swangard said.

In another stroke of luck for Nike, the very ball that Woods seemed to telekinetically will into the cup -- the One Platinum -- hits the market next month. It will retail for a pricey $54 a dozen.

Nike first paired itself with Woods back in 1996. He signed a five-year endorsement deal with the company in 2000 for a reported $100 million, and has become such a major part of the company's endorsement stable that he has a building named after him at Nike's headquarters.

Whether Nike can capitalize on Woods' feat through an ad campaign remains to be seen, however; Nike said it is working with Augusta National, which owns the rights to the footage.

"The Shangri-La is always unforgettable moments in sports that are linked to your brand," Swangard said. "This was one of those moments."

But it remains to be seen whether Nike sells more golf balls. Hype doesn't always translate to profits, said Jim Andrews, executive editor of the IEG Sponsorship Report, a trade publication.

"There can be hype built around this kind of thing, but in six months it's anyone's guess whether the numbers will be there," he said.

Komlos said Nike does expect to see great interest in its One Platinum ball after Woods' feat. "We've seen time and time again that it does resonate with the average consumer," she said.

Nike already has gotten the most marketing mileage: It is estimated the company received more than $1 million in free advertising after the shot was shown the 60th time somewhere on a television news broadcast.

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