So, I'm sure everyone has forgotten by now (mostly because this video is hilarious and has been seen more than 3 million times... and counting), but Rory McIlroy USED to represent Titleist. Do you remember him in any of their ads? Me neither. And I'm a golf nut!
There are countless marketing discussions wrapped up in the Rory-leaves-Titleist, Rory-signs-for-big-cash-with-Nike, Rory-and-Tiger-team-up-for-marketing-utopia story, but the one I want to focus on today is the Titleist-stands-pat-and-puts-its-market-leadership-at-risk angle.
For years, Titleist's marketing has focussed on one concept: We are #1. Granted, they do make the best ball in the world, and it's used by more players than any other ball. But that's the same message, over and over. Maybe it works, but maybe it's stale.
Nike, on the other hand, is NOT stale. When they signed Rory, they introduced him at a lavish event in Abu Dabi, and launched the above (extremely well produced) spot on the same day. More marketing splash is sure to follow (like a whole lineup of clubs, clothing and apparel, which is sure to yield much more than the $200 million they spent to get him), and any Titleist advertising is sure to pale in comparison.
My question (or concern?) is: Has Titleist rested on its laurels, at the risk of its market dominance position?
Here's a possible scenario: Because Nike is throwing all of their marketing weight behind Rory and Tiger (the two biggest names in golf right now, without question), is it not possible that one day in the future, more people will be using Nike balls than Titleist balls? Is it not possible that golfers, professional and amateur alike, are starting to think "hey, maybe there is something to these Nike balls, since Rory and Tiger are playing them."?
My point is this: Titleist could have, and should have, thrown their own marketing weight behind their superstar when they had him. They could have easily made this ad starring Rory and, say, Luke Donald, since the idea itself isn't all that original (see Bird vs. Jordan for a Big Mac, circa 1993). And if they did, Nike would have found itself continuing to face an uphill battle as opposed to taking and immediate and definitive leadership position... at least from a marketing perspective.
And soon Nike may have a leadership position from a market share perspective! Then Titleist will really be kicking themselves.
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This blog is written by Glenn Cressman, Share Of Marketing's founder and Chief Share Builder (bio). It covers all things marketing. Feel free to comment!