Tiger Woods’ win at the Masters was a massive boon for more than just the 15-time major winner. Woods’ equipment manufacturers, TaylorMade (clubs) and Bridgestone (ball), both stand to reap the benefits of the historic victory that very few saw coming prior to Woods’ strong finish to last season that culminated with a win at the Tour Championship.
Both manufacturers took a risk on Woods when his gear deal with Nike dissolved at the end of 2016 following the Swoosh’s exit from the hard-goods industry. With his health tenuous at best, TaylorMade and Bridgestone signed Woods to multi-year deals and waited a full year for him to return to the course and log his first season with at least 10 starts since 2015.
Will the “Tiger Effect” from Woods’ historic comeback be anything like what we saw in the late ’90s and early 2000s? Golf.com equipment editors Jonathan Wall and Michael Chwasky spoke with each manufacturer to get their take on Woods’ win and what it could mean for their brand and the equipment industry going forward.
TaylorMade and Tiger’s journey
As Tiger Woods prepared to close out one of the most historic victories in sports history on Sunday afternoon at Augusta National, TaylorMade CEO David Abeles and his three sons (13, 11 and 8 years old) were over 2,300 miles away in California watching it all unfold on television.
It was a special moment for Abeles he won’t soon forget.
“To actually watch Tiger’s impact on my kids, which I’m sure is synonymous with his impact on this generation that hasn’t had the opportunity to see him at his best, was really inspiring to me,” he said. “They’re bigger Tiger Woods fans than they’ve ever been because they got to see him win a major championship.”
Tiger Woods’ impact on the millennial generation cannot be overstated. It was Woods who single-handily made golf appealing to kids who would’ve otherwise chosen football, basketball or soccer and took the sport to a place of prominence that wouldn’t have been possible without his global appeal.
It was Woods’ global appeal that drew TaylorMade to the 15-time major winner in 2016 when Nike officially announced it was departing the equipment space after almost 20 years in the industry. Despite Woods’ health situation at the time, Abeles never wavered when the two sides came together on a multi-year club deal.
“We didn’t view the deal as a big risk,” Abeles said. “We fully expected Tiger to start winning major championships again. We felt that because he believed it. Despite the injuries he had to work through, he never gave up. He’s the toughest guy I’ve ever met. He’s made us a better company, and hopefully, to some extent, we’ve been able to help him see new pathways to his performance.”
Before the final putt dropped on Sunday, TaylorMade had begun to make Woods a focal point of their business strategy, unveiling the P7TW irons just a few weeks before the Masters — a direct collaboration between Woods and the company’s R&D team.
Abeles also noted Woods has helped TaylorMade get better in other areas, pushing the company to rethink their metalwood design in certain areas during the creation of M5 and M6.
“He helped us see different paint lines on the driver and square off the toe a little more than where we’d been in the past,” Abeles said. “He helped us with the design of the 3- and 5-wood and hit some spectacular shots on the golf course with them on Sunday.”
As for the effect Woods’ win will have on TaylorMade going forward, Abeles was more interested in basking in the glow of the victory than trying to forecast sales numbers based on the historic win.
“It’s been a journey,” he said. “Over the past two years, we’ve created this unique and unconditional bond. This relationship has developed so deeply that it was very emotional to know that one of ours, who’s chosen to play our brand, was able to find a way back into this position. It gives us a lot of pride knowing we played a small role.
“Is this win great for our business? Of course. But it’s not just about how it positively affects TaylorMade, but the entire game of golf as well and how you think about the next 20 years and the impact this win, this moment in time will have on the sport for generations to come. It’s incredible.” — Jonathan Wall
Bridgestone cashes in
If you follow golf you’ve no doubt seen the amusing Bridgestone commercials with Bryson DeChambeau and Tiger debating the performance benefits of the company’s E12 golf ball while the latter eats ice cream or drinks a shake.
They’re pretty funny bits, particularly when you consider Tiger’s past persona that was anything but whimsical most of the time. But how does a historic victory at arguably the biggest and most-watched tournament of the year affect the company who pays El Tigre to play their golf ball?
According to Dan Murphy, President and CEO of Bridgestone Golf, the gamble the company made when signing Tiger is now paying off big time. “We’re calculating the effect on sales and though it’s speculative at the moment I think a 30 percent increase in sales of the Tour B XS model he plays between now and Father’s Day is a reasonable estimate,” said Murphy. “There are a lot of people who will say, ‘I want to play Tiger’s ball.’”
Other than the potential immediate effect on sales there are some other significant numbers that illustrate very clearly just how big Tiger’s latest major victory is for Bridgestone — consider this: Activity on social platforms was up over 250 percent versus last year’s Masters including over 200 percent on Twitter, 400 percent on Facebook, and 200 percent on Instagram.
Plus the activity on Bridgestone’s website was up over 200 percent, and according to company representatives, Tiger’s preferred model (Tour B XS) has quickly become their top-selling Tour B model while it was once ranked third behind both Tour B RX and RXS.
Murphy summed it up well, commenting, “We did a better job of associating our brand with Tiger than some others by putting him in five TV ads and portraying him in a more relaxed way. It’s a sophisticated type of wagering and we bet heavy. Seeing the dividends is exciting.” — Michael Chwasky