TaylorMade, Callaway ring in the new year with splashy new drivers

With TaylorMade setting the pace in the market for big bats, and Callaway hoping to close the gap with a vibrant new ad campaign, golfers can expect a white Christmas and retailers a healthy new year, according to Matt Corey, chief marketing officer with Golfsmith.

“White continues to be the trend,” Corey told us by phone earlier this week. “When TaylorMade launched its white drivers, it clearly took the industry by storm.”

Following the rave reviews for last year’s R11 and Burner SuperFast 2.0 drivers and fairway metals, TaylorMade made waves earlier this month with a splashy introduction of its adjustable, alabaster, and suggestively branded Rocketballz.

“It’s a unique name and technology that’s sure to resonate with golfers,” said Corey, whose company, the largest golf specialty retailer in the U.S., expects continued strong growth into the new year. Much of that success, according to Corey, should come from consumers who still have lots of room in their bags for new drivers.

Indeed, despite the huge popularity of last year’s TaylorMade models, which had potential buyers waiting in lines 10-deep to test-drive them during the PGA Merchandise Show’s outside Demo Day, Corey said tremendous pent-up demand remains for the snowy sticks.

“Maybe only one in five golfers bought into the white market,” Corey averred. “There’s a big market out there for people wanting to try new products.”

To that end, Corey believes TaylorMade’s most recent additions to its ivory hot sellers — available at retail in early February — will pay huge dividends. Cobra-Puma Golf, with its return to the niche it pioneered with its 2010 Limited Edition ZL Driver, may not profit quite so handsomely.

“TaylorMade ‘owns’ the white driver…market, period,” Corey said. “We actually stock the Cobra ZL Encore in both white and black and have seen good sales in both [but] since TaylorMade is ‘all in’ with white products, they will continue to dominate that space.”

Don’t count Cobra out just yet, though. With plans to revive the party it hosted in its inflatable, puffy, white igloo at last year’s Demo Day, the company promised to bring the “joy” back to the annual merchandise show.

“Expect a few things coming soon!” a company spokesperson teased in a recent e-mail.

In the meantime, there’s Callaway, which has no plans to offer a pearly version of its new RAZR Fit clubs. Thanks to its snazzy new promotions push, though, the company’s first adjustable driver should attract a fair amount of attention.

“Callaway is starting to hone in on what it needs to do [to boost market share],” said Corey. “They’re late to the adjustability game but they’re running lots of [trials] and are testing off the charts in terms of accuracy and distance.”

The firm’s dynamic marketing campaign — jump-started by newly anointed creative director Justin Timberlake — has already amped up the noise level for its adjustable drivers, which will hit stores late next month. A flashy Las Vegas ad shoot had the industry buzzing ahead of the “Serious Performance/Serious Fun” commercials, which will air in conjunction with the product launch.

“If you can’t get a ‘wow’ factor in Las Vegas then you’re doing something wrong,” Nick Raffaele, Callaway’s VP of sports marketing told Golf Las Vegas. “We know we have better products but now how do we bring those to life and accentuate it?”

Having Phil Mickelson arcing moon shots to a flame-encircled island green at the Mirage, and boom boys Alvaro Quiros and J.B. Holmes bludgeoning 325-yard drives over the Bellagio’s neon-lighted fountains was certainly a good start.

“The whole motive is to prove we have the best products and we are going to show that in a big way,” Raffaele said.

Adding the multi-talented Timberlake, who hosts an annual Las Vegas-based PGA Tour event, to the marketing team was a savvy tactic, remarked Golfsmith’s Corey.

“Getting him involved in creative marketing campaigns [will] bring a younger energy to the brand and product line that can only help,” Corey said. “Their investment will pay off 10-fold because he’s interesting, he loves golf, and plays to a 6-handicap.”

For sure, Corey believes the company’s move away from its ho-hum “Winners play Callaway” strategy was long overdue.

“They’re going to try to break out of the traditional mold,” he said. “They’re beginning to get their mojo back.”


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