Nike Brand Survey – The Results
Written By: Tony Covey
Quite frankly, I don’t get it.
While it’s not an absolutely universal sentiment, even among our readership there is a strong reverence for Titleist and PING. I get that part.
Time and time again you tell us how much you appreciate the fact that neither company floods the market with gear, instead they embrace steady, predictable release cycles. You applaud the fact that they keep the gimmicks to a minimum while focusing on actual product performance. And you laud them endlessly for maintaining retail prices for the duration of a release cycle while TaylorMade and Callaway habitually cut the market out from under themselves; often significantly discounting product that hasn’t been on the shelf long enough to collect even a speck of dust.
Ask your buddy who bought Big Bertha Alpha all the way back in May how he feels about the 20% Callaway just knocked off the sticker price. It’s the TaylorMade R1 redux; Callaway Edition.
Here’s the part I don’t get. You guys love Titleist (even if you don’t love the products, you appreciate the model). You guys love PING (same). And because the business model is very similar to both company’s, you guys love are largely indifferent to Nike Golf.
I mean seriously! (and I don’t use exclamation points often)… As far as full line, big-ass golf companies with reasonably (or insanely) deep pockets go, Nike’s approach to the golf business is as streamlined, arguably restrained, as it gets. Nike does golf the way you constantly tell us you want golf done.
If you count Covert 2 and Covert 2 Tour as separate clubs, Nike has two reasonably well differentiated models available. Callaway has four. Six if you count Optiforce (and you should, because a new one is likely coming). TaylorMade…between 460, 430, S, and white…hell, it’s a lot, and that’s before we start talking about the old stuff (RBZ, RBZ 2, and R1) that’s still readily available and selling well.
Titleist has 2. PING is off the charts now with 4.
Nike’s iron lineup:3. It wouldn’t kill them to offer more options in their wedges, and the putter lineup is robust, but not excessive.
And here’s the other thing…if you buy the archaic (it has been on shelves since FEBRUARY) Covert 2.0 Driver today, you won’t need to worry that Nike might knock 20% off , toss in a free fairway wood, 3 dozen balls and a Labradoodle for the guy who buys it next week…you know, because the numbers don’t look so good.
Nike Golf doesn’t play that game. Nike believes in the integrity of their brand, and understands the value of consumer confidence.
It sounds a lot like Titleist and PING, doesn’t it?
Nike Golf sucks? Bullshit.
One of us is delusional.
Maybe you should think differently about Nike Golf.
And yet, here we are. Nike’s more than 10 years deep into the golf industry, and is still fighting perceptions that they’re just a shoe company, that their equipment is garbage, that they just don’t belong in the golf business.
That’s some pretty shallow thinking right there.
Nike views the journey of a golfer as a 40 year endeavor. The company is barely 25% of the way into their first generation. If it can’t convert you, Nike can probably wait you out.
All of that said, there are some uncomfortable obstacles that Nike Golf needs to overcome sooner rather than later. For all of the perceptions, and misconceptions about Nike Golf, I’ve come to believe the biggest issue Nike faces is the disproportionate amount of indifference to their golf business.
Perhaps I delayed writing up these survey results as long as I did out of some overly-optimistic delusion that more people would take actually participate in the survey. It didn’t happen. We’ve done several surveys prior, and a couple since. We’ve marketed and promoted them the same, and despite all of that, the raw head count, suggests that golfers just aren’t that interested in Nike as a golf brand.
By far our Nike survey generated the fewest responses. It’s almost disconcerting.
Want some context?
The total number of responses to our Nike Golf survey were roughly half of what we got for Callaway. That’s an interesting parallel as you have one iconic company still trying to establish itself in golf, while another iconic golf company is fighting to rebuild after years of digging an increasingly deeper hole. Neither is where it wants to be right now (at least I hope neither is), but it sure looks like golfers have a greater interest in the Callaway story right now.
Now it’s entirely possible that for whatever reason we have a disproportionally Nike-averse audience. It’s also possible that Nike is the biggest victim of golf’s generation gap. Sure…almost all of us own something with a swoosh on it, but I’d wager that Nike brand performance is strongest among the 30-40 crowd (give or take a few years on either side). That demographic (toss in the mid-to-late-20-something’s too) represents golf’s lost generation.
Visit any golf club…you’ve got juniors on family memberships,and then a massive gap that extends nearly all the way to the AARP. 20 and 30-somethings aren’t playing any measurable quantity of golf.
I’m 41. I’m one of the kids at my club. I’d be a kid at nearly any club. In 10 years, I’ll still be one of the kids. Nike’s generation isn’t playing golf right now, and I believe that explains a good bit of the indifference.
For those of you who did respond…let’s go to the survey.
Nike Brand Survey Results
It’s not unusual to see Marketing lead the way. We have a cynical audience anyway, and that generally means that everyone short of Titleist and PING takes a marketing first approach. Remember the point I made at the beginning. Nike is more PING and Titleist than they are Callaway or TaylorMade.
Just think about that rationally for a moment.
I’d wager that Nike would prefer to see both the Quality (4.16%) and Performance (8.20%) numbers higher (it’s that perception problem again). The good news is that the innovation message does seem to be resonating as 25.80% selected that as the most positive differentiator.
The most fascinating (and entertaining) responses to this question were found among the 12.49% that answered Other.
As you might expect there were plenty of mentions of Tiger and Rory (sometimes individually, sometimes together). There were more than a few who mentioned things like “Clean and simple design. No gimmicks“. And of course we had plenty of negatives like “inferior to all other brands“, “Nike is a shoe company“, and perhaps harshest of all, “nothing“. Indifference might be better than nothing.
Finally, one guy said “Criminal Athletes“. I’m not sure what the basis for that is, or how that qualifies as a positive diffentiator, but if it does, Go Browns!
From my perspective as a golfer, as much as I loathe the overuse of word, from this list, I’m inclined to go with innovation. Nike is less afraid to step outside the box than anyone else in golf, and while that doesn’t always yield the best products out of the gate, it means that Nike has the greatest potential to tear down the current boundaries and make the equipment game exciting again.
First with a rubber core golf ball? Nope…not Titleist. It was Nike. True story.
Nike likely has more intellectual property than anyone outside of the tech world (and Nike has tech patents too). It’s a pool that deepens on the daily. If you don’t think some of that knowledge and innovation crosses over into the golf world, well…now who’s delusional?
From my perspective as golf media guy, I’d leverage the Other category, and offer up Rhino-thick skin.
It’s bad enough that the golf media industry is disproportionately powered (paid for by way of advertising) by the companies for which journalists should be providing objective, honest, and hopefully insightful commentary. The lines are growing more blurred by the day. What’s worse is that golf companies as a group are largely thin-skinned. I’d use a different word, but ladies will be reading this.
It’s a culture of manipulation and control, and when it’s lost, it isn’t always handled professionally.
Negative opinions often incur penalties. We’ve been cut-off from info and product (which is a great way for golf companies to try and control what ,you, the consumer sees). Commentary yields complaints, and just about everyone is happy to offer up an opinion on how I should have written something, or suggest that maybe I shouldn’t have written it at all.
“This doesn’t happen at Golf Digest“. Seriously…someone said that to me once.
There’s none of that from Nike Golf. No whining, no crying, no backlash, no tantrums, no retribution. Big boy pants, 24/7/365. Nobody at Nike has ever…not even once, tried to manipulate content. I respect the hell out of them for it, and you should to.
Hey…there’s Marketing again (55.89%). I’m not sure how Modern (50.18%) translates, but it can’t be a bad thing, right? Youthful, Trendy, and Colorful read like our Cobra-PUMA survey, so make of that what you will, but I’m going to assume it speaks to Nike’s apparel line.
Innovation (37.10%) is good. Hype (34.48%) registering slightly higher than Performance (33.41%) probably isn’t.
Given some of the well-known perceptions about Nike Golf, Illegitimate (3.80%) registering only 3.80% is good news, Poser (11.77%) less so. Both words were included in the survey as potential Nike hater bait. The bad news for Nike is that we hooked a fair amount of you with the latter.
Clearly there are plenty of you who still believe Nike doesn’t belong in golf.
At 60.46% I think this is the highest No Clubs in the Bag we’ve registered to date. We know Nike has some work to do. The driver number (20.43%) is decent, and putters (16.83%) and irons (18.15%) aren’t far off, but we also know that Nike’s current market share numbers aren’t competitive with the top-tier companies right now. Every silver lining comes with a cloud…or something.
As is often the case with Nike, there’s a ton of potential here. The Covert finally got people talking about Nike drivers. The Covert 2.0 generated real interest. By generation 3, that interest could start translating to real sales. Today’s numbers don’t always tell the whole story. There’s a small argument to be made that Nike Golf is trending slightly upward.
The putters have always performed well for us, and the golfers who actually try them generally end up loving them.
The iron situation is interesting. The VR Combo stuff is excellent, but isn’t the sort of thing that has mass market appeal. There is a queit buzz, however, hovering over the Covert 2 irons. Yes, I know quiet and buzz don’t often work well together in this context, so let me explain.
Callaway’s Apex is the iron story of 2014 thus far. For all the talk of Bertha this and that, Apex is what’s driving the company right now. Despite an obnoxious price tag on the pro model, Callaway has done exceptionally well with the lineup, and more relevant to the discussion at hand, golfers won’t shut up about them.
With the Covert 2 irons, it’s a bit more subtle. A few sources inside pro shops have told me that what’s happening with noticeable frequency is that a guy will demo a bunch of irons and end up with the Covert Forged (if we’re calling Callaway out on price, we should probably mention that they’re also insanely expensive relative to their market placement) in his bag. Within a few weeks, 2 more guys from his foursome will come in and order a set (many without demoing anything else). The sales are almost entirely performance driven. Scores drop, and the guys on the losing end want in on the action. They’re buying what’s beating them.
There’s nothing spectacularly exciting here. 62.86% report an improving perception of Nike Golf within the last 3 years. I suspect that’s largely due to a more compelling metalwoods lineup. I’d also wager that with each passing year, the acceptance of Nike as a real golf company grows. Through conversion or death, eventually we’ll stop talking about this ridiculous notion that Nike doesn’t belong in golf.
Here’s one where we don’t agree. While an astounding 73.97% of you believe that Nike invests heavily in marketing, I’d argue they don’t invest enough. It’s July. When was the last time you saw Nike pushing a specific product, demo day, or any other initiative designed drive you to put a Nike club in your hand.
Nike did just announce the Nike Lunar Waverly. It’s a cool looking golf shoe, but…well…you know.
Callaway’s Phil Mickelson US Open promo was brilliant in that it incentivized golfers to demo equipment at a time when most of us have already spent our equipment allowance for the year. Only Callaway knows for sure if the benefit justified the cost, but it was something.
Most of the rest of this isn’t much different than what we’ve seen in past surveys. The one big red flag for me (from the Nike perspective) is that only 3.87% of you believe that Nike Golf emphasizes custom fitting. Guess what? We agree. Totally…and then some.
Nike has never been a power player where custom fitting is concerned. We’ve heard the guys that worked their Speed Trial events a couple of years ago weren’t always well trained (in club fitting or the Nike product line), and Nike fitting carts are a rarity. Finding club specifications and other important product details on the Nike Golf website is next to impossible, and most consumer we talk to aren’t the least bit aware that Nike offers the most comprehensive shaft upgrade program in the industry.
This needs to get better, and fast.
On a more positive note, Nike just opened up its first Performance Fitting Center in Scotland, and it appears that Nike is finally starting to realize the value and necessity of building a competent network of fitters:
“Today marks a critical step in our journey as we deliver an experience designed to serve the golfer in fitting and performance. It’s not enough to simply make great product – we have to serve our consumer with world-class experiences that enable them to unlock their true potential” – Cindy Davis, President, Nike Golf
Hopefully Scotland is just the beginning. $20 bucks says it is.
Nobody in golf wants to be a follower. That’s for real. If you look at Nike products like cavity-back drivers (for better or worse), RZN balls (also for better or worse), and their incredibly interesting collection of patents (some really cool and unique stuff), it’s hard to make any sustainable argument that Nike is following anybody.
How can I say this…25.30% of you are wrong.
I can’t put it any more kindly than that.
While my experience with Nike leads me to believe that they’re generally unconcerned with what the rest of the industry is doing (they’re totally on their own program), if you consider the evolution of golf apparel and footwear over the last decade, and toss in things like the rubber core golf ball (and maybe one day the evolution of RZN), I think 27.00% of you could make a legitimate case for Nike as one of the industry leaders.
Once again the results play into the perception that golf equipment is mostly all the same. Indistinguishable led the way in every category (it always does). The red flags here are the occasions where Slightly Worse registers higher than Slightly Better (irons, wedges), and where Significantly Worse register higher than Far Superior (Metalwoods, Irons, Wedges, Balls).
Brutal honesty, I think a lot of that comes from consumer ignorance. Some believe Nike makes crap, and so they don’t bother to hit it.
How many have actually hit a Nike wedge side by side against a Vokey or a Cleveland? Nike driver head to head against Callaway, Cobra, and Titleist? There exists in the marketplace a very real aversion…let’s call it a bias against Nike products, and it’s largely founded on nothing other than bogus perceptions.
That’s my opinion and observation on the problem. It’s Nike’s job to fix it.
As with anything else, nothing is the best for everyone, but if you actually believe it when you say Significantly Worse, you owe it to yourself to do some comprehensive side by side testing.
There’s a tremendous amount of disconnect between the responses to this question and the one that preceded it. In general teal (Above Average) outpaces grey (Below Average) almost across the board. The same is true at the extremes for everything but Value. Overall this is a fairly solid result for Nike Golf.
The highlights are definitely Innovation, where 42.00% of you ranked Nike as Above Average. Toss in the 20.00% who view Nike as the leader and well…that’s a sizable majority on the happy side of the equation. Performance and Quality also scored well which leads me to believe that guys who either own or who have tried recent Nike clubs ranked them highly (even if neither is the first thing they associate with Nike Golf), while those who haven’t largely ran with their assumptions.
I don’t know what the right answer is here…or if there is a right answer. I’m sure Team Nike has a thought or two on the subject, but me, on this, I waffle. Depending on what’s going on at any particular time, you could sell me on any of the middle 3.
Hard goods (anything with a grip) market share numbers simply don’t support any argument for improving rapidly. The numbers alone probably make a better argument for failing slowly, but with that said, the Covert line has improved significantly in just one iteration. Nike club designer, Nate Radcliffe has been called a rock star by more than one person I’ve spoken with, and with Priority Designs in the mix, we think Nike’s best is still yet to come.
Considering that the RZN ball is finally not only playable, but it’s actually good, and there hasn’t been any significant drop-off with the irons, putters, apparel and footwear, and I suppose Improving Slowly is where I’ve settled today.
I believe in the potential of Nike Golf.
Again, the curves (or bars) aren’t much different than what we’ve seen in the past. Comparatively fewer of you (6.09%) ranked Nike as the best in the industry, but an even smaller number (1.74%) ranked Nike as the worst. I’m dying to know what company the majority our our readers believes is THE worst. We’ll get on that.
As it almost always does, average ruled the day.
Just shy of a 60/40 split. A majority of golfers who follow golf companies on social media follow Nike. What our numbers don’t reveal is that Nike still maintains the largest social media following in golf. By the numbers they’re killing it. Whether or not that converts to sales, or even brand loyalty is more of an unknown.
There are plenty out there…in here too, that remain unconvinced that you can tweet your way to success in the golf industry.
Who didn’t know…or assume Nike Golf would be on social media? Seriously?
I’ve shared my thoughts on Nike’s social media approach in the past, and while I’ll concede that I’ve seen some improvement over the last year or so, their approach isn’t as informative (from a product detail perspective), or as personal (hey, you’re my real life buddy now) as some others, so I can definitely see how 26.82% of you wouldn’t find the Nike approach engaging or relevant.
Here’s my question for you guys: What changes should Nike make to their social media approach?
48.04% of you don’t follow Nike Golf because you’re not Nike Golf fans. Can’t argue that logic.
I suppose it all boils down to how you define engagement. If it’s back and forth, making you feel like you’re a part of something (like a complete reinvention of a brand)…or that someone is even reading your tweets, then nobody is more engaged that Callaway. I mean granted, they don’t engage with me much, or the MyGolfSpy account (we’re on the naughty list), but if you’re a golfer, consumer, and potential customer, they’re still leading the way.
If engagement is a bit more subtle…cool photos, and of course that motivational JUST DO IT, #dontsleeponsummer stuff, yeah…Nike is really good at that.
I’mm willing to buy into Slightly More Engaged.
Given that we’ve seen occasions where greater percentages of readers report that social media diminished brand perceptions, this is actually a fairly solid showing for Nike.
Big picture, Nike leverages their athletes with greater efficiency than anyone in the industry. When Tiger wins, or when Rory wins, or even when Michelle Wie wins, Nike does an excellent job of making that part of the larger brand experience.
When Nike doesn’t win (and it’s golf so Nike doesn’t always win), photos of shoes don’t always convey the message with the same impact and intensity.
In general, Nike is doing anything to hurt themselves with social media (and there’s plenty of companies for which that statement isn’t true), but they’re not totally killing it either…at least not as far as the delivery is concerned.
What’s true for Nike social media is largely true for the company as whole. As go its athletes, so goes Nike.
Typical response pattern. Absolutely typical. The majority continues to assert that social media has no influence over the buying decision.
I believe that bad social media is much more likely to negatively influence the buying decision than good social media will a positive decision, but can we ever really know?
Wake up, people. It’s a mind game.
What an interesting breakdown. Across all of the golf industry…and actually, even if we consider only equipment companies, Nike’s efforts reasonably qualify as Above Average.
Even if it’s ordinary bell curve stuff, what’s interesting is the similarities in the numbers between the most effective in golf, and below average.
Again, the raw headcount supports Nike as the social media leader.
More golfers read Nike tweets and Facebook posts than those of any other company. I’m not sure anything trumps that.
Wrapping It Up and Putting a Swoosh On It
All things considered, this isn’t a horrible result for Nike Golf. Obviously general indifference is a problem, and the results convey what we already knew. Nike still has a lot of work to do in fighting against the just a shoe company, not a real golf company perceptions that inexplicably persist.
Within the last year or so, Nike has diversified its message a bit. There’s less emphasis on Tiger, but they’re still focused on the athlete (and I’ve come around to understanding that and believing that it’s an integral part of the Nike way), but they’re finding better ways to reach the average golfer who may not think of himself in that context.
I’m in the minority…I might actually be a minority of one, but if Nike stays in the game, I believe it’s a logical inevitability that they will become the #1 Brand in Golf. It’s a 40 year journey…Nike is only getting started.
Then again, I might be the one who’s delusional.
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