GOLF RETAILING speaks to Brian Karl, Nike Golf’s Western European Sales Director, about the brand’s new direction and focus, business growth and life in Amsterdam.
“Our aim is to be the undisputed number one apparel and footwear brand in the sport of golf. We have a roadmap of how we plan to accomplish this, and I’m confident we can do so.” This is the considered view of Brian Karl, Nike Golf’s Western Europe Sales Director, a Swoosh sales veteran of 17 years. Shortly after his second anniversary in the European job, GOLF RETAILING spoke to Karl on how things were at Nike following the announcement last month that the brand would be exiting the club and ball business.
“The first thing to state is that we are simply evolving as a golf brand – clearly it was a tough decision emotionally, but it was absolutely the correct business decision. Nothing at Nike stays the same, change is a constant, and we are embracing it. We need to focus on the future and, in particular, areas where we can win and we will also continue our commitment to our elite athletes on the various worldwide tours. It’s been great to see Rory win again at the Deutsche Bank Championship in September, and we’ve also had recent victories thanks to Fran Molinari, Joël Stalter, Dylan Frittelli and Paul Peterson,” says Karl.
Nike Golf is currently transitioning into the new model of business with resources shifted to its core business of footwear and apparel, but Karl is quick to point out that in the UK and Western European markets, the brand has enjoyed another successful year in terms of profitability and there is no possibility that the Swoosh will disappear from golf courses or pro shops.
“Our footwear and apparel appeals to a wide range of golfer and our Golf 2.0 strategy is working and we continue to leverage the strength of the brand.” So, what is Golf 2.0 and how has it evolved under Karl’s tenure of the sales force? Golf 2.0 is an industry leading strategy which focuses on creating a pull vs. push market. It is designed to segment and differentiate the market place and create compelling consumer experiences.
“It has gone better than expected. We continue to elevate the marketplace and our brand with our strategic partners, and we have grown our business three years running in a very challenging environment,” he comments. “Lessons have been learned, and we are aligned to accelerate growth with bigger and better partners that believe in our marketplace vision.
“We wanted to stand for something with Golf 2.0, to create a pull market mentality, and we continue to evolve and focus on key partners who buy into what we are trying to achieve. The next fiscal year will see us even more focused and we will work closely with our strategic partners to elevate the consumer experience in their physical and digital environments. We have to put the consumer at the forefront of absolutely everything that we do.”
Karl has seen much change within the industry during the past 17 years at Nike, working throughout the United States and now living in Amsterdam with wife Monica, son Alex and daughter Cameron. “I am thoroughly enjoying the European golf market. The great thing about golf is the passion our consumers have for the sport and our brand across the UK and continental Europe. Living over here is certainly different, but it’s a beautiful country and I’m grateful that my whole family is enjoying taking in the Dutch and European culture. We’re about an hour away from two of our key focus cities of London and Paris, while Stockholm is also easily accessible.”
It’s clear that Karl is excited about the new direction Nike has taken, but what is he most eagerly anticipating from the 2017 product lines? “Personally, I am most excited about the Footwear category. Footwear is Nike’s heritage and in the golf category we have a huge opportunity there, and there are some exciting innovations coming. The great thing about Nike is that we are never satisfied and we never stop working to make athletes better regardless of the sport they play, or the level they are playing at.” Karl is confident that Nike will continue to reach even greater heights in 2017 and beyond.