GR – EXCLUSIVE – TaylorMade ‘Unplugged’

In 2013, TaylorMade launched four new drivers into the European marketplace, and while it remained the top-selling driver brand in Europe, its rapid product cycles raised concerns among retailers. In a bid to establish greater synergy with key accounts in 2014, the company has has embarked on a ‘TaylorMade Unplugged’ road trip of senior management, with regional meetings set-up with retailers across Europe in February and March.

The ‘TaylorMade unplugged’ programme teed off at Wentworth on February 11, with many of the company’s key customers flying in from around Europe. Joining TaylorMade-adidas Golf EMEA Chief Executive David Silvers and EMEA Commercial Director Andrew Law in hosting the event were Sean Toulon, TaylorMade Executive Vice President, and Bob Maggiore, Chief Marketing Officer, who had both flown in from TaylorMade global HQ in Carlsbad, California.

GOLF RETAILING was delighted to be the only media title granted access to this exclusive event.

Changing Convention
David Silvers

David Silvers

TaylorMade-adidas Golf EMEA Chief Executive David Silvers set the scene at the inaugural ‘TaylorMade Unplugged’ event:

 

A lot of other brands are satisfying golfers’ natural product cycle, but at TaylorMade we are trying to get these golfers into stores, thinking that they are getting left behind because they have not got ‘Low-Forward’ driver technology or ‘Speed Pockets’ in their irons. We believe we are stimulating golfers to quicken that product cycle and we are looking to change conventions. We want them to come into your stores one or two years earlier than they normally would to upgrade their clubs, or because they want a super lightweight golf shoe like Sergio Garcia’s.

We are talking about changing convention, and we hope you will buy into it.

We didn’t unveil any new drivers at the 2014 PGA Show, which surprised a lot of people, but that is because we are backing SLDR and JetSpeed, and we want ‘Lofting Up’ to become a badge of honour. We need to reach a tipping point where golfers think they are missing out because their friend has lofted up to 13 degrees and he is driving the ball 25 yards longer. The stats bear this out.

We saw it at the Demo Day in Orlando, and the quicker we can get the message of ‘Lofting Up’ out to golfers, the quicker we can all benefit massively from this.

If we believe we have a product that is better than what is out there already, then we are going to get it out into the market. We are going to have fast product life cycles.

We grew TaylorMade market share in sales in almost every single product category last year; in putters, wedges, golf balls, soft good, irons were spectacular, but we faced challenges with metal woods. That motivates us to come back stronger, which should create interest among your customers and drive them in-store.

We lost about four per cent of market share on metal woods last year, from 39% to 35%, but we still feel extremely strong in the metal woods market.

We believe adidas is the number one golf shoe on the planet outside the United States, and we believe that consumers are coming to us.

We are passionate about the game and about growing the game. We need to wake up about growing the game and we have not played our part to help in the past. We have worried about sales numbers while sticking our heads in the sand about growing the game. We are also passionate about helping golfers get better, because if they get better they will enjoy golf more, play more and come back to buy more equipment. We are also passionate about growing your business, and that is why we want to increase purchase cycles.

The greatest inventions go against convention
Sean Toulon

Sean Toulon

Sean Toulon, TaylorMade Executive Vice President, based in Carlsbad, runs all of TaylorMade’s research and product development. The buck stops with him on ‘Lofting Up’

At TaylorMade we continue to push, and we do that for a lot of reasons, one of which is that we are trying to excite and incite a business that can be pretty staid and very traditional. At the same time, we also need to understand retailers’ challenges better and to find synergies between our businesses.

2013 was the second best year TaylorMade has ever had. In fact it was the second best year any company had experienced in the history of golf, from a sales standpoint. Our sales were $1.8 billion worldwide, so it was a big year.

Innovation doesn’t wait, and if you have something that is so dramatically different, then the time to introduce it is when the technology is ready.

At the 2013 Scottish Open something exciting happened for us. We had been developing SLDR for some time, and we felt we had something special. It had been in development for a long time. With this low and forward CG we were surprised by some of the results we found in modelling, and then when we began to test it we started to see some different things.

We put four in play at the Scottish Open, and while most players don’t fiddle with their equipment much just before a major, we saw 14 SLDR drivers in play the following week at Muirfield in the Open. That just doesn’t happen. But it did happen last year because the performance was so radically different. Some of the things we were seeing we didn’t fully understand at the time.

Carl Petterson came to us with a nine-degree Nike driver, and he was 70th on the PGA Tour in driving distance, but we set him up with an SLDR with the same shaft, but with a loft of 12 degrees, and he went to third in driving distance.

Within six weeks of winning the US Open, Justin Rose switched to SLDR. We started to see a groundswell of performance improvements when golfers went from traditional lofts to 10, 11 or 12 degrees. It was changing convention.

We are after a high launch angle and low spin rate for driving distance, and 17 degrees of launch angle, along with 1700 rpm of spin is the holy grail in that regard. ‘17-1700’ is a destination we have been striving towards, in order to unlock distance gains.

But meanwhile the industry has been chasing MOI, trying to make drivers easier to hit. We were as guilty as anyone. The more we looked into it, we eventually realised we were chasing the wrong thing. Instead we started to look at how we could get launch conditions closer to 17-1700. We changed our mind set and we became more analytical.

With ‘Low-Forward CG’, driver lofts have gone up while spin rates have come down. It has become routine for us to have a golfer with a swing speed of 82mph, to pick up at least 15-20 yards of driving distance when they switch to SLDR.

‘Low-forward CG’ is also democratic. A lot of advances in the past have suited tour players the most, but this is helping everybody. The higher you launch the ball, the further it goes. It works for Dustin Johnson and it works for beginners; if you can get your launch conditions to those numbers, regardless of clubhead speed, you are going to pick up massive amounts of distance.

MOI is the wrong thinking. High launch with high spin, from a high-MOI club, does not result in distance gains. With ‘Low-forward CG’ we are seeing spin rates drop by 750-1,000 rpm, which is a massive difference. For the average golfer we have brought spin down from 3,300 to 2,500.

The greatest inventions in golf have gone against convention.

It’s a simple concept, and we are going to spend enormous resources, time, effort and money to ensure that golfers understand that ‘Lofting Up’ is their friend, and presentation of this at point-of-sale is absolutely critical.

If you have a launch monitor, have a golfer try the new driver. Tell the golfer they are going to see their spin rate drop by between 750 and 1,000 rpms, which will be too low for their existing launch angle. So what we do is loft up, and then the golfer will see their trajectory go up, while spin rate stays low, and they will pick up between 10-25 yards. We have seen this in literally tens of thousands of fittings.

Golfers will go out with their 14-degree drivers and they are going to be very happy, and they are going talk about it, and drive more golfers into your shops. This is how we speed up replacement cycles among golfers.

Drivers went from wood to steel, from steel to titanium, and we honestly believe this is the next step. This is the biggest performance leap from one product to another that we have ever had.

Low-Forward’ is the future

‘Low-Forward’ is the future. We know we are the only company there right now but we want the other companies to follow us, because if they do that, people will see that we were there first, and that should help us. If other companies do not follow with ‘Low-Forward’ we think they are going to get left behind. The lower we take the CG, the more spin we take off the ball, and the more loft we can add. We have a prototype driver with a loft of 18 degrees.

We are incredibly bullish about 2014. 2013 was a challenge, but we believe our products for 2014 are incredibly exciting, and we will launch more speciality products with the SLDR brand to keep the name in the minds of golfers and then keep terrific energy around SLDR.

“Loft up or be left behind”
Bob Maggiore

Bob Maggiore

Bob Maggiore, Chief Marketing Officer for Taylor-Made adidas Golf, explains the marketing strategy behind ‘Lofting up’

The beginning of the year feels a little bit different for us in 2014, as the things we are most excited about are things that have been in the market for a few months already. Normally in January we are lighting up as many fireworks as we can get our hands on, to announce great new products, but this time we are concentrating on SLDR and JetSpeed, with ‘Low-Forward’ technology, and also on the SpeedBlade irons with Speed Pockets.

Our challenge is to take this new technology and make the messaging simple and powerful. The main message to get golfers excited is very simple: ‘loft up for more distance’. Our strategy is always to start at tour level and get our tour golfers to validate the product, and the power in the message to consumers comes from the lofting up that tour players have been doing.

We want this to be the easiest message for retailers to talk to their customers about. Retailers used to say to us: give me a product that I don’t have to explain, but now the thinking is more like: give me a product that will help be to get more intimate with my customers. Explaining how golfers can loft up to gain distance is a great conversation to have.

This year we will spend more money against our metal wood franchises than we ever have before, and over 60% of that spend is behind the ‘Loft up’ message.

Working on relationships
Andrew Law

Andrew Law

Andrew Law, EMEA Commercial Director for TaylorMade-adidas Golf, talks about a new sales strategy for 2014

This TaylorMade Unplugged programme will see seven of us from the Basingstoke office going to engage with between 650-1,000 retailers across Europe over the space of six weeks, to discuss how we do things, and to listen to retailers.

Over the past six years our business in Europe has grown by 120%. We have worked hard and brought out a lot of great product, but our relationships with retailers make or break us. We are going to work harder than ever this year to make us easy to do business with, and to make sure we are profitable for your business.

Coming into 2014 we have been moving away from loading up retailers with big pre-books. We want to get to a place where we are not loading up retailers, in case trading conditions are not favourable for whatever reason, and we don’t want retailers to have lots of stock and for them to feel they need to bring the price down, because that then brings down the value of the product. So the sales approach we are taking now is ‘little and often’. Then the value of product should stay higher.

Going forward we are not chasing new business, and we are concentrating on the accounts that move our financial dial. Already our own research has shown us that we are in less retailers than the other major brands.

If we sell too much product we drive market values down. We want to offer fair trading terms, consistent wholesale prices and we don’t want to load up the market. We have not been great at this over the past two years but we intend to get better at this in 2014.