blue Is the Future of Adams Golf
Written By: Tony Covey
Last month Adams held a small event in Boca Raton, Florida, where a small group of media got to try out the new blue driver, bag the red hybrid, and play 9 holes (2 groups) with two-time Masters Champion Bernhard Langer.
En route to some of the most atrocious golf I’ve played in quite some time, I picked up a few tips from the pro, found a hybrid that’s immediately going into my actual bag and, as you might imagine, had a nearly infinite amount of fun.
It was almost certainly the biggest, if not the only media event in the history of Adams Golf. The Delaire Country Club where we played was beautiful. Langer was genuine and engaging, and the food was pretty good too.
What wasn’t abundantly clear to me was the point of any of it.
A Day with Adams and Bernhard Langer
On the range before our round we watched and listened as Bernhard stepped us through his practice routine, explaining how to hit the variety of different shots needed to win on the PGA Tour. We attempted those shots ourselves, tried the Adams blue driver and red hybrid. We had lunch. Langer told stories. We played golf together, and had a truly memorable dinner.
The small group of media in attendance spent an entire unscripted day with Bernard Langer with none of the awkward moments that occur when professional golfers and paid celebrities fumble through their company-supplied bullet points.
We talked golf, not product. Bernhard Langer kept it real.
The Adams guys kept it real too. They didn’t try and sell us (or oversell us) on the technology. Conspicuously absent from the event were the typical assortment of industry must-mentions. Longer, faster, better were replaced by “hit this”. The requisite bits about face technology, precise CG placement, and adjustability superseded by “what do you think?”
The summary discussions were light on talk of ball speed, launch angle, and spin rates. Launch monitors eschewed for a more basic metric.
“It’s fun, right?”
That, it turns out, was the point. The Adams event provided a gentle reminder that golf is fun…at least it’s supposed to be.
For guys like me who cover equipment, a day with Adams and Bernhard Langer also provided a very different way to start an equipment conversation.
But then again, this is a very different Adams Golf…at least it wants to be.
Like a Lil’ blue Phoenix
After spending the better part of 3 years in limbo, TaylorMade’s newish (and now former CEO Ben Sharpe, detailed his vision for Adams Golf. TaylorMade was the brand for competitive golfers. Adams would specifically target recreational golfers – guys just out to have a good time.
While the identity is no longer that of a brand for old men and hacks, if along the way Adams products happen to appeal to senior golfers or higher-handicap golfers, the company is perfectly fine with that; but recreational is the key word.
To make that distinction clear, the original Adams 2015 lineup, including a driver with what I’m told would have been an interesting new take on adjustable CG, was sent to the scrapheap to make room for the recreationally-oriented blue line.
The Adams red line (which currently consists of only a single hybrid) remains serious business. It’s the heritage of the company, and remains suitable for tour use. While red stands in contradiction to the larger message, it also proves that the tour always matters.
Even a recreational brand needs a tour presence.
Along with blue comes a strategy that targets beginners, recreational golfers, and anyone else who thinks that the status quo of golf marketing has become too serious, too stale, or – from my perspective – too stupid.
The TaylorMade-Adams team believes that the recreational crowd is currently being underserved, if not totally ignored, by the industry. The company believes that if you speak simply and use words everyone can understand, there’s a real opportunity for success. It’s what Adams calls shooting straight.
There’s no need to obsess over technology. Blue is easy to hit. Blue is fun.
This is still the golf industry, however, so even a brand devised for an entirely different market can’t stray too far from the industry’s script. Shoot straight, but not too straight.
Being too different is too risky, even for a company reconceived to be different.
What Might Have Been
We were fortunate enough to shoot a video of the video that Adams created to provide some context for the brand’s place in the industry. It eventually might have made it to the masses as part of an ad campaign but apparently it was deemed too rebellious or at least too unconventional for an industry stuck in its own divot.
Take risks…really small ones. That’s how it’s done in golf.
What do you think? How great is this ad?
Much like the driver that never really was, the most rebellious side of Adams – the one that pokes fun at the industry for its overreliance on slight variations of the same ol’ same ol’ will likely never see the light of day beyond this story.
Rock the boat, but keep your feet dry. It’s too bad.
Are simplicity and fun enough?
As Adams attempts to position itself as the brand for golfers who don’t take themselves too seriously and who just want to have fun, it faces an uphill climb. The lil’ lessons campaign is brilliant in its attempt to remove some of the intimidation factor from the game of golf, but it’s hard to know who’s actually watching.
Fun, unintimidating, and easy to hit are all great concepts, but I suspect that even the most recreational of golfer leans towards either the brands that the pros play or the cheapest thing on the shelf. He doesn’t actually want to be shot straight; he wants to buy more distance (cheaply). Distance is fun.
That’s not to say blue isn’t long. Those who hit it well on the course came back with tales of bombing blue 30 yards past their $500 gamers, but Adams wants to be different. Adams isn’t supposed to compete with TaylorMade, and so it’s unlikely Adams will tell that part of the story to the masses.
Your purchase of blue doesn’t include a day with Berhard Langer and the simple reality is that there’s absolutely nothing inherent in products from Callaway, PING, Cobra or anybody else that specifically precludes fun. Each of those companies brings its own brand of fun to the table.
Is Adams really that different?
To be successful, I believe Adams will need more than simplicity and straight talk. It likely needs to offer a value proposition.
The big miss here may be that, apart from a few videos, Adams blue does very little to break down barriers.
$299 for a driver, $199 for the fairway, and $799 for the irons.
Adams is offering blue products with design considerations that won’t appeal to avid (competitive) golfers at a price that doesn’t make them any more appealing than anything else to the recreational golfer.
The message may be different, but for the consumer the bottom line is the same. If you’re asking what I think…I don’t think it’s going to work.
With all of that said, I want more than anything to be wrong. Golf marketing is largely nonsense. The industry needs straight talk, and it needs simple technologies that actually benefit a majority of golfers.
I want to support that company from the video – the one willing to poke fun at the absurdity of the golf equipment industry, while still being a part of it.
The recreational market is underserved, and it does present one of the few viable opportunities for real growth. It’s an opportunity for Adams and an opportunity for the game.
But let’s actually shoot straight for a moment.
Is the plan for Adams to truly differentiate itself specifically for the recreational golfer, or is the plan for Adams to get completely out of TaylorMade’s way? Is blue the non-compete clause missing from the original contract?
Is this new Adams different enough to actually matter, or is TaylorMade simply killing time with Adams until it’s time to kill off the brand completely?
I hope it’s the first one, but ultimately golfers will decide.