With adidas officially parting ways with TaylorMade, Andy Brown took a trip to the new adidas head office in Basingstoke to speak to Andrew Law, recently appointed Managing Director of adidas golf.
The new office for adidas golf may be just a mile or so down the road from the old building that they used to share with TaylorMade in Basingstoke, but the location might be the only thing which has stayed the same. When you walk into the office there is a sense of new beginnings and possibilities in the atmosphere, understandable given the change which has occurred. Adidas Golf and TaylorMade had been joined at the hip as part of the same operation for over 15 years so when it was announced in 2016 that the sportswear giant were looking to sell TaylorMade the initial shock was palpable. The new man heading up adidas golf is Andrew Law, Managing Director for Europe, Middle East, Africa and Pacific who initially felt the split as strongly as anyone, having worked for TaylorMade Adidas golf for well over a decade.
Law says that once it became clear in 2016 that adidas planned to sell TaylorMade and the bid from private equity company KPS was accepted it was remarkable how everyone got on with the day job. “I have experience working for corporate companies for 30 years and it was a unique situation: business went on as usual. We all got on with the day job,” he states. “In the last three to four months all the individuals had to decide if they were going to stay with adidas or TaylorMade. Sadly a few people lost their jobs, but we created more jobs than we lost. We had a very friendly and transparent relationship with TaylorMade – there were no dust ups in the car park, it was all very amicable,” he says with a hint of a smile. “On the 29th of September we officially separated and it was a very emotional time for a lot of us, not least myself, as suddenly you are walking out the door for the last time.”
A few months on, and now that the dust has settled, the sense from those in the office and from Law himself is very positive. There are approximately 45 members of staff based at the head office in Basingstoke and ten reps for the UK and Ireland, but these were already split in terms of adidas and Taylormade. While Law is very careful to not say anything negative about TaylorMade, it is clear that by all of the staff purely focusing on adidas rather than having to split their time, he feels that the brand can push forwards.
“For such a huge global brand, adidas perhaps didn’t quite get the attention it should of,” admits Law. “TaylorMade is a very dynamic brand with a lot of categories. Now everyone in this building thinks about adidas 24/7 and we believe that will make a difference. If you have a 100 per cent focus on something you will get a better result than if you had 20 per cent, and maybe sometimes adidas only got 20 per cent of people’s time, focus and energy. The product has always been good, the brand has always been strong and the marketing has been great with assets like Dustin Johnson and Sergio Garcia. The fact that now me and the team will only think about adidas is the biggest upside and opportunity for the brand.”
Adidas are one of the largest sportswear brands in the world and so it makes sense for the golf division to now work more collaboratively with all the other adidas categories. Law’s golf division will actually sit in a unique position within the adidas group as the sports brand recognises the intricate nature of the golfing landscape. As a case in point, Law says that other business units at adidas Headquarters were surprised by the sheer amount of different companies competing in the footwear and apparel segments in golf, an enormous difference to other popular sports. Whilst an obvious challenge, Law is keen to state how serious the brand is about the opportunity ahead and their passion to work effectively within golf retail.
“Regardless of what other sports brands in golf are doing it seems there is a nervousness about adidas and what we may do in the future. Adidas have said that they recognise that the golf industry and marketplace is unique and to be a success we need a structure which will support that industry and grow the adidas brand in authentic golf retail,” he comments. “Today we have very strong market share in footwear and we believe we can continue to grow that. For apparel I would say we are a strong player within the pack; it’s a very competitive area and there are some very strong brands. I think golf apparel is the most competitive category in golf. We are a strong player in the pack, the question is how we get a bigger share and next year we are launching the ‘ultimate polo’ for the golfer which we believe can give us a competitive advantage. We’ve had the ultimate pant in the range for a few years and that has been a best seller in the UK so for Spring/Summer 18 we are launching the polo.”
During our chat the new managing director mentions several times the importance of the golf pro to their business and Law acknowledges that work needs to be done to increase the number of pro shops they are stocked in and on their point of sale within pro shops. “As I was moving into this role I took stock of how we were showing up in the marketplace and I think over the last couple of years we have looked a little tired compared to some of our competitor brands who have done a really nice job,” he admits. “Going into 2018 we are reinventing how we will look in store so our sales guys are engaging with our key partners in the UK and Ireland to make sure that the brand looks it best. How the point of sale looks has to reflect the strength of the brand so there is a major investment going into instore point of sale for 2018.”
Any brand which has the world’s number one player wearing their apparel and footwear is going to get good Tour and media exposure, and with Sergio Garcia, Jon Rahm and many others joining Dustin Johnson in wearing their clothing the average golfer in the street certainly comes across the brand when they watch the sport. Another added benefit of the split is that the company are no longer tied into only approaching players who use TaylorMade clubs – Law expects that the company will soon be able to announce new players, some of whom will be ‘high profile’.
As their great competitor Nike did, adidas moved away from hardgoods so they could concentrate on the core principles of their business: apparel and footwear. With the new TOUR 360 BOOST they look set to build on the success of its predecessor, and the brand have intelligently tweaked the existing model rather than reinventing it. There will be other new footwear and apparel launches in the first quarter of 2018 which Law doesn’t cover in detail – and he can certainly be forgiven for keeping his powder dry. While there is a feeling among some of those in the golf trade that Nike have stepped too far away from golf retailing, this is something which Law wants to make clear is not on the agenda for adidas.
“We are very serious about the golf business. We are not going away and now we are a stand-alone business we are going to be working harder and better than ever before. Adidas are going through a lot of growth right now and they want us to join them. We have a very steady business at adidas golf and now we believe there is room for real growth. Adidas are one of the hottest brands out there at the moment and is very strong globally. We want to bring the current brand heat of adidas into golf.” While some of their closest competitors might not rush to agree, an adidas which is strongly committed to golf and wants to push forward can only be good for the general health of the industry as a whole.