After the very public fall from grace of professional golf’s golden boy Tiger Woods, sales of the Nike golf gear he repped fell precipitously. Eventually, Nike gave up on golf altogether. Earlier this year the company said it will no longer produce swoosh branded golf products.
But recent news makes it clear Nike isn’t the only golf brand suffering. Acushnet, the company that owns both Titleist and FootJoy, has been a recent disappointment to investors, and it doesn’t look like things will be getting any better any time soon. Stock isn’t falling — yet — but growth is slowing to a point that has Wall Street worried and the management at the top of the company hoping for another golden goose.
Ever since Woods electrified the sport of golf, brands became accustomed to the extra attention they gained from both younger fans and new groups who had previously only followed other sports. But, after Woods’ quick and painful downward spiral, the sport was left without a face. No dominant player for fans to love or to root against. No identifiable face that everyone knew, whether they followed golf or not.
Sure, there are a lot of new and exciting players coming up, guys like Day, Johnson, Spieth, McIlroy and Stenson … but I guess most people would be hard-pressed to remember all their first names. Could you? Now, let me ask you, do you think folks would have as tough of a time putting “Tiger” in front of “Woods” or even “Arnold” in front of “Palmer”?
Fewer famous faces meant fewer people watching golf. Ratings of the big tournaments are down across the board, and it doesn’t look like those will be getting any better any time soon. Worse, the sport’s most trusted demographic, retirees, is finding new ways to entertain itself. Golf courses across the country are falling into disrepair.
The sport desperately needs a new superstar, or it’s likely more brands will go the way of Nike. Unfortunately, brands like Titleist and others don’t really have much to fall back on. Golf has always had someone to call its hero, from Palmer to Nicklaus to Woods. Who will fill their spikes? At this point, the young guns don’t have the following or the wins to step into that spotlight.
There’s no consistent leader at the top of the board, that seemingly unbeatable force that the rest of the field is chasing. Winners rotate at the top of every tournament, and fans aren’t interesting in trying to get to know a new player to root for week in and week out. If someone doesn’t step us soon, the future of golf could go from bad to worse.