Going Rogue in 2018

    How do Callaway follow up on an Epic 2017? Editor Dan Owen spoke to Nick McInally, Marketing Director at Callaway to find out.

    To say last year was Epic for Callaway would be a massive understatement. The Epic driver was a huge hit. Jailbreak technology was a home run as our American cousins like to say. But how do you follow up such a successful year? You go Rogue.

    “Epic was new and was a genuine breakthrough in product performance, and Jailbreak really caught the imagination of the public,” says Nick McInally Marketing Director for Callaway.

    “Timing is everything. Our competitors were either at the end of a product cycle or had brought out products similar to their last range. But we knew we couldn’t stand still and that is why the Jailbreak Effect has been improved and significant forgiveness added in the new Rogue line up.”

    But while the Epic did a tremendous job for the brand last year, in 2018 Nick is excited by the entire range, especially given the initial reaction of their European customer base.”

    “Golfstore (one of our major buying groups across Northern Europe) had 120 people out testing product from all manufacturers in Dubai. The guys there started off by saying Rogue just looked like a typical Callaway iron. After the guys had hit them they just came back and said: “Wow, how well do they go?” The urethane microsphere technology in the irons isn’t just marketing fluff, it’s real technology that helps make these better golf clubs.

    “You then get to the Rogue fairway wood, and out at the PGA show several of our major UK retail partners were telling us that it was going to be our key product, whilst our golf ball prebook featuring the new Chrome Soft with Graphene (the world’s lightest and strongest material) is also significantly up year on year.

    “You look at last year and it was all about Epic. But this year everyone we speak to is picking something different out of the range which gives us confidence in our lineup that we have the right tools for Callaway to have a strong year.”

    But even with what Nick firmly believes is the best product line up in the brand’s history, he understands that Callaway can’t expect to have everything their own way this season.

    “It’s going to be a harder year. There are better products available from everybody. I don’t think we have ever had a stronger line up of product but neither have our competitors which makes it great for the retailer and the consumer.

    “The key challenge is getting the product into people hands. Some of our competitors have had a really strong start with strong visibility on Tour but we know that our product performs and golfers will see the benefits when properly fitted.”

    From a marketing perspective, Callaway continue to create their own global content (having their own TV studio definitely helps). Whilst Nick’s European team also create their own content, the focus is around excitement and demand creation on the new products

    “Kings of Distance is a great example for us. The golfer gets to come and try the product and actually see the differences for themselves. 2018 will be our fifth year and as a concept it works, you get 100 people who by the end of the day will be hitting the ball longer media as a one minute lesson to help golfers with similar swings or corrections they want. Repurposing this content with targeted headlines gave us quarter of a million views last year with very little additional work!”

    Marketing is key to a brand like Callaway. But making sure the product is profitable for the pro is even more important.

    “Everybody knows that golf participation isn’t exactly growing year on year so the focus has to be on delivering our pro improved margins (both % and absolute). The only way you can do that and maintain the trust of the buyer is by genuinely improving the product. In 2014 1.6% of the market drivers were sold at over £350. In 2017 this number was 34.6% and more than 2/3rds of these sales were Epic.

    “It’s not just about increasing price it’s being able to explain the value in the new driver. When tour players are getting 13 extra yards, with technology that visibly works you can charge a premium for it. The new Chrome Soft golf ball features graphene, the strongest, lightest (and most expensive per gram) material in the world. And the pro can still sell them for less than £40 a dozen and make a strong margin.”

    But all this support would be worthless if Callaway didn’t off a strong support network for the pros.

    “We’ve done a lot of work with green grass accounts to make sure they’ve got the right range of products in store. We invest heavily in store-in-store but this year we’ve been filtering that down to smaller stores. We can create a strong Callaway visual presence in a small space. New items such as our light boxes give an Apple Store feel to give the brand a premium look in store.

    “With the way our custom fit programs work retailers aren’t having to hold nearly as much stock as they were in the past. With our Optifit kits, our partners can effectively sell from the Callaway range and cover all their costs by the end of the season which is massive for the smaller retailers.”

    It’s fair to say the team at Callaway have been busy. Odyssey are dominating the putter market. Toulon are making an impact. But wait there’s more. Nick won’t be getting much downtime.

    “We should probably now be known as the Callaway Group. Callaway and Odyssey obviously, Toulon putters coming on board and they are just beautiful. But now we’ve also got OGIO and TravisMathew in the family as well helping us create an additional presence inside and outside of golf. These new brands come with their own unique opportunities and challenges but one thing for sure, it’s exciting times at Callaway.”

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    As an avid golfer since the age of eleven Dan lives and breathes all things golf.  With a current handicap of eleven he gets out and plays as often as his work life (and girlfriend) allows. Dan confesses to still being like a kid at Christmas when it comes to seeing the latest golf equipment. Having served as GolfPunk’s Deputy Editor, and resident golf geek for the past 13 years and working for golf's oldest brand, John Letters Dan brings to GOLF RETAILING an excellent understanding of the sector.