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Volume 21 No. 2
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At Petco, a long driver to right

A rendering of the oversized TaylorMade club
An 80-foot re-creation of TaylorMade’s new R11 driver has been installed in San Diego’s Petco Park following a new three-year sponsorship deal between the Carlsbad, Calif.-based golf equipment manufacturer and the Padres.

The oversized driver will run parallel to the ballpark’s right-field foul pole and appear in two parts: the driver shaft, which is in three dimensions and stands entirely in fair territory, and a 14-by-8-foot photograph of the club’s white head on the outfield wall.

Financial terms were not disclosed.

“We’re working to build innovative partnerships and really tap into San Diego-area based companies to create a uniquely San Diego experience at the ballpark,” said Padres president and chief operating officer Tom Garfinkel. “So having the support of an iconic, locally based brand like this is really key for us.”

TaylorMade will retain rights in the deal to change out the driver for other products in future years. Initial talks on the pact began casually last year between Padres chief executive and vice chairman Jeff Moorad and Mark King, TaylorMade’s president and chief executive. Several ideas were discussed before their respective creative teams developed a club shaft-as-foul pole concept.

MLB rules, however, dictate that foul poles must be yellow, or orange in the case of the New York Mets’ Citi Field. And the consistent tubular shape of foul poles does not lend itself to the widening shaft and grip of a golf club, prompting the Padres and TaylorMade to line up the driver just inside the right-field foul pole at Petco Park.

“We had to match the dimensions of the shaft and grip and build it to scale,” said Bob Maggiore, TaylorMade vice president of global marketing. “It had to look realistic, or as realistic as an 81-foot golf club can look.”

The Padres-TaylorMade deal recalls some other more unusual MLB club sponsorships in connection with stadium foul poles, most notably the Houston Astros’ deal with Chick-fil-A. Since 2006, the Astros have held a prominent foul pole deal at Minute Maid Park featuring the quick-serve restaurant brand’s iconic cows on the “fowl” pole itself, though that deal did not particularly come up during the Padres’ discussions with MLB’s baseball operations department on its partnership with TaylorMade.

The giant driver is made of aluminum and was scheduled to debut last Thursday for a Padres game against Philadelphia. LPGA player and TaylorMade endorser Natalie Gulbis was to throw out the first pitch for the game and hit a restricted-flight golf ball for TV crews.

There is also a charitable component to the sponsorship deal, as TaylorMade will donate $600 for every Padres home run to Solutions For Change, a San Diego-based nonprofit aiding the homeless.

Early sales returns for TaylorMade’s R11 driver show that the white head is making an impact with consumers. The company has shipped more R11 drivers in the first three months of this year than it did for all of 2010 with last year’s product, the R9 SuperTri.