File this under “We knew it was bad, but it was even worse than we thought.” Seriously, can you believe that Nike Golf never made a profit…ever?
Phil Knight, Nike co-founder, sat down for a Bloomberg Television interview in which he discussed the glory days of the company’s foray into golf, which basically consisted of landing the young phenom Tiger Woods and signing him to the then largest endorsement deal in history. Knight wooed Woods and his father Earl throughout the phenom’s days of junior golf.
After the 1996 Woods signing, it was all downhill, really. Nike, if you’ll recall, beat a hasty retreat from the golf equipment business last year after slumping sales. But as Knight revealed, the sales figures were never good.
Asked why the company decided to shutter the equipment biz, Knight responded
“It’s a fairly simple equation, that we lost money for 20 years on equipment and balls. We realized next year wasn’t going to be any different.”
Fairly simple, indeed. Nike’s Tour staff, outside of Woods, was never impressive until the signing of Rory McIlroy. But by that time, the company had been losing money for 15 years. The Swoosh failed to gain any real traction with recreational golfers, buried behind the big three of Callaway, Titleist, and TaylorMade.
Woods still wears Nike apparel, but now his clubs are TaylorMade and his golf ball is Bridgestone. Interestingly, the brand is gaining stars since divesting of the equipment business. Case in point: Jason Day, who signed on to wear Nike apparel in September of last year.
It seems a fitting time to remember some of Nike golf’s most curious attempts at innovation. From the Singshot irons to the Covert driver, you can’t say they didn’t try.