SBJ/July 16 - 22, 2007/This Weeks News

Faldo focuses on brand building

Nick Faldo beat Greg Norman in one of the most memorable golf classics ever: the 1996 Masters, where Norman’s collapse at Augusta will be remembered for the ages. One area in which Faldo fully admits that Norman has beaten him, though, is brand-building and off-the-course business — which is why Faldo now is following the blueprint of the Shark’s well-known success.

Faldo designs golf courses and markets a
signature wine and his own brand of golf
apparel. He has plans for a resort
management company.

“He started a lot earlier than me,” Faldo said. “He got into his branding at the end of the 1980s and carried on for another 10 years or so playing.”

The business Faldo has developed includes designing golf courses, a signature wine called Faldo’s Selection and his own brand of golf apparel, the Faldo Collection. He’s also hoping to own and operate his own resort in the next few years.

But Faldo doesn’t think he would have achieved any of this if IMG were still representing him. In fact, Faldo, now working as an on-air golf commentator for CBS and Golf Channel, credits his decision to leave IMG — most recently in 2003 — as the main reason his income quadrupled in the first three years after he left the agency.

“Being one of 62 golfers, I didn’t think that was me somehow,” Faldo said, speaking at a Bethesda, Md., hotel during the AT&T National earlier this month. “Six majors, and I wound up as one of 62. That didn’t feel good.

“[IMG] wouldn’t build a brand for you. You were building their brand,” he said. “If you want to look after yourself as an individual, you’ve got to do it yourself.”

IMG executives seemed surprised by Faldo’s criticism, especially since he was with the company for about two decades. IMG represents about 1,000 athletes and entertainers.

“IMG’s track record of representing some of the greatest names and talents in sports, modeling, broadcasting, film and other areas, speaks for itself,” said Jim Gallagher, IMG’s senior vice president of corporate communications.

That roster includes some of the world’s best golfers (Tiger Woods, Vijay Singh and Sergio Garcia) and best tennis players (Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Venus Williams).

Faldo, who first left IMG in 1997 only to return before leaving again in 2003, said he used Norman, who also left IMG to start his own lines of business, as a model. But Faldo admits that his on-course demeanor — he was seen as a singularly focused, emotionless competitor — hurt his off-course marketability. Now in broadcasting, he has come across as much more personable and accommodating.

Faldo today counts as his most trusted adviser his manager, Ian Forsyth, whom he hired from Nike. “He watches my back and my brand name and [offers the] full attention that you don’t get from a management group,” Faldo said.

To date, outside of broadcasting, the most successful part of Faldo’s business has been his golf course design work, with more than 20 projects in production, including several in the United States, such as Cottonwood Hills in Kansas and The Wilderness in Montana.

The Faldo Collection clothing line is currently available only in Great Britain, but expansion into Europe is planned. There’s no timetable for bringing it to the United States.

And, of course, there’s the wine, the Faldo Selection, which Faldo describes as “good, ole drinkable [and] fruity. … It’s starting to pick up interest now.”

Next on Faldo’s agenda is creating a resort management company that will build resorts around his golf courses. He has set a five-year goal of owning and operating his own resort.

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