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Volume 22 No. 43
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The long-term lens of a Greg Norman rebranding

Greg Norman was about to go hit the tennis ball at his Hobe Sound, Fla., home on a recent Thursday afternoon. Tennis is the Shark’s game these days, more than golf, which made him rich and famous.

“Tennis game is healthier than the golf game, I can tell you that,” he told me with a laugh. He isn’t playing much golf and when he does, Norman laughs that he’s sore for days. “I play a little bit of golf, but not a whole lot. I don’t stretch like I used to. My golf flexibility is nothing like it was when I played full time. So, when you go out there and hit balls getting ready to play, you’re going out there and your muscles are stiff, your rotation’s stiff. Afterward, I just ache.”

What Norman has been spending a lot of time on, as usual, is his business, and the two of us caught up to talk changes at his company, his recent deal with Authentic Brands Group as well as other things going on in the 62-year-old’s life.

Before signing with ABG this month, Norman unveiled a strategic repositioning of his corporate brand in October, shifting from Great White Shark Enterprises to the Greg Norman Co., which included a modernized refresh of his Shark logo.

“The parent company was Great White Shark Enterprises. Very confusing, you know? Great White Shark? The younger millennials didn’t know what the heck that means,” he said. Norman saw a disconnect with the brand to him, as focus groups showed younger consumers weren’t familiar with him or that he ever played golf: “We did some surveys just to test it and it was amazing,” he said with a laugh. “The group of people I sat down with, they said, ‘Yeah, we love the logo. But who are you?’”

That drove the decision to align his identity with the logo, hence the change to Greg Norman Co. “To tie my name with Great White Shark Enterprises was really important. We hadn’t focused on doing that, we just put the focus on the logo. So, we identified a space there that was not being monetized as well as it could have been, and this would help make my name more recognizable.”

Greg Norman: “It’s all geared toward protecting the brand.”
Photo by: MIKE O’BRYON / GREG NORMAN CO.
The move comes as Norman’s company celebrates its 30-year anniversary and with an eye on the long term. “It’s all geared toward protecting the brand. I think I’ve done a pretty good job for the last 30 years with it and I just want to make sure that what we’ve established in 30 years doesn’t just disappear because of poor planning going forward.”

That two-year rebranding process builds on what Norman talked me through when I visited him at his Florida home in 2014: His designs on building his brand through a long-term lens, looking out more than 200 years.

“We are thinking beyond my death. You have to think that way. I have to think like a third party, not like Greg Norman. Sometimes it’s actually a little creepy. But I know what I’m doing is the right thing for my family and my name and business,” he said.

Norman’s joint venture with ABG is a smart play that should result inadditional merchandise and licensing and endorsement opportunities and extend the brand globally. Norman’s current company didn’t have the resources to develop such opportunities. This can accelerate growth, specifically outside of North America, where he didn’t have the resources for those type of deals.

“I was looking at doing this internally and to do it internally I would have had to staff up,” he acknowledged. “I would have had to bring in quite a lot of people to come in and do this. So, we decided to go outside for a change and partner up with a company that that’s all they do. That’s what they do all day long, globally.” I could see Norman easily doing auto, financial or any luxury brand/lifestyle endorsements globally.

“With ABG, there’s going to be companies that I never would have even considered doing endorsement deals with or never even considered doing licensing deals,” he said. He hopes to exploit new merchandise categories that fit into his lifestyle. “There are spaces we’ve never tried to leverage, from beach, surf to mountain and hiking wear. All the things that I do in my life could be great fits for the brand. I could never have done that on my own. I needed somebody with the mind of ABG.” Looking out over the next 12 to 24 months, he said, “I’d be shocked if we hadn’t come nearly close to doubling our business.”

Not all the divisions of the Greg Norman Co. are included, as he will continue to control his golf course design, real estate and investment businesses, as well as Greg Norman Media, Greg Norman’s Australian Grille and Shark Wake Park.

His golf course design business has 16 courses under construction and 44 under contract. He believes a Trump administration could jump-start a sluggish resort and golf business in the U.S. “It’s in a holding pattern until we see what happens with Trump and these new tax initiatives that he wants to get through,” he said. “I see a lot of positive trends. Small businesses are very, very excited about the opportunity that lays ahead with some of the deregulation. There really are good signs.”

He also is optimistic on professional golf and the potential of new PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan. “The men’s game is deep,” he acknowledged. “There is a lot of depth, a lot of great players. You’ve already seen four different No. 1 players in the last year or so. No matter where these guys play in the world now, they’re going up against two or three or four or five other top-10 players, and that really gives you quality, quality golf tournaments. The health of professional golf, globally, is really, really good.”

He believes Monahan will bring a fresh look to the Tour. “He’s a very, very intelligent, likable guy. He’s a more engaging individual than Tim Finchem ever was. So, let’s just hope he opens up a little bit more and gives the game a nice, fresh look.”

While he may not be playing a lot of golf, he’s bullish on the business, and hinted to me about a couple of other major initiatives coming from him in the second half of the year, including one with Verizon centered around connectivity.

On this Thursday afternoon before his tennis workout, Norman sounded just as much at peace as when I left his home more than two years ago.

“My health is excellent. I’m probably as fit and as strong as I’ve ever been in my life. I feel really good about that. I love where my company is going. I think this year will be a breakout year for the company, obviously signing with ABG and the other announcements we’re going to be making during the next couple months. Everything is just great. I feel very much at peace.”

Abraham D. Madkour can be reached at amadkour@sportsbusinessjournal.com.