AT NIKE, IT’S TIGER, NOT LADY
NEW YORK — If you expected Tiger to immediately take Nike’s women’s golf business out of the woods, think again.
Even though Nike believes Tiger Woods will help golf apparel become more mainstream, the company is playing its women’s game cautiously. For fall, a seven-piece line of women’s golf apparel will be offered, but the company does not plan to offer another women’s apparel line until spring 1999.
“We’re taking a step back in women’s to focus on our men’s business,” said Mitzi MacCallum, product line manager for Nike golf. “Our feeling is seven pieces doesn’t do much justice. We want to do it right.”
Golf apparel and footwear currently represent a small percentage of the company’s overall business, said John White, marketing communications director for golf.
Despite Nike’s measured approach to the category, sales of women’s golf merchandise for fall should help boost Nike’s overall golf business for fiscal 1998, which begins June 1 and ends May 31 next year. During that time, Nike expects sales of golf apparel and footwear to increase 60 percent, White said.
Before Woods turned professional, many people did not realize Nike was in the golf business, White said. The company entered the men’s golf arena in 1983 and the women’s in 1988.
Last August, Woods turned pro. In September, he signed an endorsement deal with Nike for a reported $40 million.
Putting Woods front and center is part of Nike’s strategy to propel its golf business. The 21-year-old champion made his first cameo for Nike in November, when NikeTown opened here at 6 East 57th Street. Some of Woods’s golf equipment was showcased at Nike’s booth at The Super Show in Atlanta in February.
After Woods shattered records in blasting his way to victory in the Masters on Sunday, Phil Knight, chairman and chief executive officer of Nike, was among the guests who dined with him at a private dinner at Augusta National.
Woods usually favors Nike’s Swoosh 18 Collection, which is aimed at young, fashion-conscious golfers. There is also a Nike Tour Collection, designed for conservative golfers.
Billed as “The Tiger Package,” three polo shirts from Swoosh 18 that Woods wore during the tournament will be introduced in stores on May 25. Each will retail between $48 and $55. Woods’s favorite Nike baseball cap will also debut in late June. It is $22.
When it comes to winning, Woods is slightly superstitious. He asked Nike to incorporate red — “his power color” — into the golf line, a Nike spokeswoman said. On the advice of his mother, Kultilda, who studies astrology, Woods wears red on Sundays, generally the final day of pro golf tournaments. Red items were not offered in the Swoosh 18 fall apparel line until Woods requested it, the spokeswoman said.
Despite all the fanfare surrounding Woods, Nike does not plan any additional production runs for any of the apparel Woods wore during the Masters, MacCallum said.
But they’re certainly not leaving him on the links.
“He’s much more than a golf athlete — we see him as a brand athlete,” the Nike spokeswoman said.
Ads in which Woods appears for Nike, for example, will not be restricted to golf-oriented media. To play up its ties to Woods, Nike is airing TV commercials featuring Woods through the first week of May. The campaign initially ran last fall. It features children of various races and ages declaring, “I am Tiger Woods.”
A new campaign with Woods will break June 1, during the U.S. Open.
Nike’s first line of signature Tiger Woods golf apparel and footwear will be unveiled in September at the Professional Golf Association’s Merchandise Trade Show in Las Vegas. It has not yet been determined if Woods’s name or an insignia will appear on his signature apparel or footwear, said Mike Forsey, director of golf footwear research and development.
For spring 1999, Nike plans to unveil its first signature golf shoe for a woman. The footwear is being modeled for Kelli Kuehne, a sophomore at the University of Texas who is the reigning U.S. and British women’s amateur champion. Building a solid footwear base before introducing coordinating apparel has been effective strategy for Nike.
Years Woods has agreed to work with Nike 5
Years Kuehne plans to endorse Nike 3
Styles in Nike women’s golf apparel for fall 7
Styles in Nike men’s golf apparel for fall 120
Meetings Woods has with Nike footwear and apparel designers 10
Percentage growth planned for golf business for fiscal 1998 60
Number of new golf accounts Nike has opened since Jan. 1 350