SBJ/March 6 - 12, 2006/This Weeks News

Victory kick-starts Puma Golf launch

Shoe and apparel maker Puma is marching into golf with a victory under its belt.

Geoff Ogilvy put Puma Golf front and center at
the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship.
PGA Tour player Geoff Ogilvy, signed to endorse the Puma Golf line, was the surprise winner at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship late last month. Ogilvy sported the Puma logo in front of an ABC TV audience on his way to the title.

Puma Golf’s line will be in stores in mid-March. It’s one of two familiar brands now expanding into golf: Performance apparel company Under Armour, of “We Must Protect This House” fame, is also moving into the clubhouse.

The victory of Ogilvy, an Australian who won his first tour event last year at the age of 27, was important for Puma on a couple of counts, said Bob Philion, golf business unit manager for Puma North America. “One is it increases Puma’s visibility in the sport of golf, and that’s very important,” he said. “Secondly, it reinforces our connection with Geoff prior to our retail release. … That’s very important given that we’ve put him in our advertising.”

Ogilvy will star in Puma’s ad campaign, whose TV and print components will break March 18.

He is signed to a four-year deal. The brand has also signed Erica Blasberg of the LPGA Tour, who will also be featured in ads, to a three-year agreement. Puma Golf would not comment on financial terms.

The campaign will run in such nontraditional outlets as Comedy Central, FX, Details magazine, GQ, Maxim and InStyle, as well as traditional forums such as ESPN and Golf for Women, pointing out the youthful customer base it looks to reach. Puma Golf’s motto is “Fear the Familiar,” and the line abounds with bright colors and bold patterns.

“We think the industry is ripe and ready for a point of difference, and we want to bring some new blood to what we think is a pretty conservative world,” Philion said.

PGA Tour player Hunter Mahan models
new Under Armour golf apparel.
Philion said that Puma Golf’s target is the 18- to 35-year-old who plays golf and is interested in the latest trends in fashion. “Golf is the perfect collision of the worlds of sport and lifestyle,” he said. “It’s an extension of what we do in other categories.”

Another brand with strong credentials among young consumers, Under Armour, has signed a long-term licensing agreement with multitiered Lenexa, Kan.-based clothing giant Gear For Sports to sell its golfwear at on-course, or “green-grass,” golf shops, college bookstores and military installations in the United States. Gear owns the line that bears its name as well as Gear For Sports headwear and has licensing agreements with high-end Robert Trent Jones apparel and outerwear company SunIce.

Dan Langner, vice president of sales and marketing in the golf division for Gear For Sports, said he expects Gear to have about 3,000 accounts with Under Armour in the green-grass segment in the next three years.

Under Armour executives wouldn’t comment, but Gear executives say it’s coincidental that the golf line, which will be available in late May, is coming out not long after Under Armour went public in November.

Under Armour is taking the basic approach of solids, stripes and fancies. John Polkis, senior vice president of sales for Gear for Sports, said Under Armour wants to solidify the bond it has with its core 12- to 25-year-old consumers as they begin to reach 25 to 35.

Under Armour joined forces with Gear because of its embroidering capabilities, said executives from both companies. Gear buys the garments from Under Armour and then embellishes them with logos.

While Gear is introducing Under Armour to the green-grass market with specifically logoed merchandise, the parent company will sell nondecorated golf apparel bearing only its brand logo to major off-course retailers such as Dick’s Sporting Goods and The Sports Authority, as well as other regional big box accounts.

Puma Golf’s channels will include selected green-grass shops, select golf courses, better resorts and college courses that have younger golfers, as well as boutiques, independent shops and high-end department stores.

Under Armour has signed Hunter Mahan on the PGA Tour and May Wood on the LPGA Tour as endorsers.

Bob Seligman is a writer in New York.

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