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Tony Covey MGS

Nike RZN Commercials #PlayInTheNow

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Nike Golf is back with another in their Play In the Now Campaign.

 

This time around they're promoting the new RZN (Black, Platinum, Silver, Red) golf balls. I had a chance to chat with Nike Golf President, Cindy Davis at the PGA Show, and she told me that the ball is the product she's most excited about for 2014.

 

I hit the new ball under less than ideal conditions, and apart from offering significantly better feel than the previous generations of RZN, the way it holds its line in the wind is simply amazing.

 

There's still an anti-RZN mindset out there (I get it...I had it right up until I tried the new balls), but what people forget is that it was Nike (not Titleist) that was first to market with a rubber ball. If RZN proves to be the next real deal, it will be much more difficult to render them a footnote next time around.

 

Think what you will of Nike Golf and their gear, but apart from being brilliant, these campaigns show you exactly where Nike is compared to the rest of the industry. 

 

They haven't always succeeded but they're not the least bit afraid of defying convention with their products. I'm not sure what if any impact the Play In The Now campaign is having on those who don't generally embrace new technologies, or equally as important for Nike, don't view them as an authentic golf company (two sides of the same coin really). I'm already a believer in what Nike Golf is doing, so no need to convince me of anything, but the rest of you... 

 

Are these ads having any impact on you perceptions of Nike Golf?

 

 

 

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Nike has always been on this bent of "progress" in the game. The relative amount of time between changes in the equipment we play with has never been more rapid. Some don't like it, and anything pushing more "change" for Nike is treading on thin ice, I believe. Golf is different than other sports and I don't think they anticipated not being able to use the same types of marketing they did for other sports.

 

Plus, what about the new RZN is so great? These commercials don't do much to inform people, but rather entertain slightly. The black and white RZN commercials were borderline depressing with their austerity. These are kinda fun, but I don't think for those that don't take Nike seriously already, these ads will not change their mind, and may push some further into that camp. The Rory experiment has been a flop. They need staffers winning in short order to push their new products. But, it's 10000000% better than the TM "Jetspeed" puppet show. My gawd.

 

Overall? Not "wow'd." Slightly feeling like an extension of the old Tom Morris GolfNow commercials.

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I love these commercials.  I think that they are funny and memorable - if while I'm fast forwarding with my DVR one of these comes on (like the really funny one with the driver) I'll go back and watch it.

 

If people come back to a commercial and watch it, you know the marketing team nailed it!

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Nike has always been on this bent of "progress" in the game. The relative amount of time between changes in the equipment we play with has never been more rapid. Some don't like it, and anything pushing more "change" for Nike is treading on thin ice, I believe. Golf is different than other sports and I don't think they anticipated not being able to use the same types of marketing they did for other sports.

 

Plus, what about the new RZN is so great? These commercials don't do much to inform people, but rather entertain slightly. The black and white RZN commercials were borderline depressing with their austerity. These are kinda fun, but I don't think for those that don't take Nike seriously already, these ads will not change their mind, and may push some further into that camp. The Rory experiment has been a flop. They need staffers winning in short order to push their new products. But, it's 10000000% better than the TM "Jetspeed" puppet show. My gawd.

 

Overall? Not "wow'd." Slightly feeling like an extension of the old Tom Morris GolfNow commercials.

 

I would certainly agree that Nike probably didn't fully understand the golf game when they got into it, but the demographics of golf are shifting, and I believe that works to Nike's advantage.

 

We're at a point now where an entire generation of golfers has never known the sport without Nike. Couple that with an aging population of tight-assed purists and I believe you're witnessing the leading edge of what will eventually lead to Nike's dominance in the golf industry. I know how crazy that sounds, but Time + money is a recipe for long term success, especially when you have more of both than anyone else. 

 

The commercials serve a purpose. If you want to know all of the technical details of RZN, they're out there, but that's not what this particular campaign is about. It's about poking fun at that old school mindset the "I would never play a..." guy. We all know that guy. Some of us are that guy. Play in the Now is about pushing people to accept things that are new and different in golf, and Play In The Now is about pushing people to accept that Nike Golf is here, just as authentic as Titleist (for example), and they're not going anywhere. Nike is The Now.

 

I mention Titleist because as far as how they run the business day to day, the closest parallel to Nike Golf you'll find is probably Titleist. It's a controlled principled approach that's largely unconcerned with what everyone else is doing. 

 

As for Rory...he had a bad year. I won't presume to know what happened, but clearly he was distracted last year (look at all of the stuff with the management company). The other thing most don't consider...apart from the implications of the switch itself (all new gear), Rory has ZERO input into the design of his clubs that went into his bag. That is to say that by the time he signed his Nike contract, the entire 2013 lineup was set in stone. What's different in 2014 is that Rory was part of the creation process. He had input, and he's certainly part of the reason why this year's Tour model is so different from lasts. 

 

Even with that down year, Rory remains immensely popular - and that will always be good for Nike. He's as good as a brand ambassador as you're likely to find (I say this based on my own experience with him at Nike's Innovation event). He's going to win and win often over the 9 years left on his Nike deal. 

 

One final thought: while Tiger has long been the face of the Nike golf brand, he's not the only Nike guy winning. A slew of different Nike guys win every year. Check your leaderboards, Nike guys habitually finish near the top in Majors. 

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These commercials are great, Nike makes some of the best commercials in my opinion.

Great commercials, but... Have they changed the way you think about Nike Golf or influenced you to buy Nike clubs, balls, etc.?

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Great commercials, but... Have they changed the way you think about Nike Golf or influenced you to buy Nike clubs, balls, etc.?

Right, so to the initial question. I'm trying to figure out how to say this and have it make sense. I've never had a negative image of Nike as a golf brand. I think their gear looks great, I wear the clothes almost exclusively when I golf. But I never consider their actual clubs or balls. I know that sounds weird right. I have a positive brand perception, but I have never even felt compelled to so much as demo a Nike club.

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Great commercials, but... Have they changed the way you think about Nike Golf or influenced you to buy Nike clubs, balls, etc.?

 

I will say Nike golf gear has become better as far as equipment goes, I don't do much ball testing so I can't add any input there. This perception has come from actually trying the clubs, the commercials don't make me love or hate Nike golf any more or less than if they had the crappiest commercials of any company. And although their equipment is better, I would still not play it. The only thing I would want to game is the Covert Tour driver but there are better drivers out there. 

 

And since we're talking about Nike, one thing that really turned me off this year was their choice of stock grip, the Golf Pride Tour Wrap 2G. I hate this grip so much, I can't hold onto it and it always feels slippery. When I was trying out the Nike Covert Tour driver, I had a hard time hitting it because I didn't have a glove and my hands got a little sweaty and made the grip very slick. So this factor would make fitting difficult for me (even with a glove) if I ever got fit for Nike clubs, just my opinion on the matter. 

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Keep in mind TM says their biggest competitor is Nike. Not Ping or Callaway or anyone else. Nike is one of the few companies that's willing to try something different, which I respect.

 

I ordered a bunch of the 20XI-X balls because of the incredible sake they had ($1 a ball). Haven't tried then yet, but now that they're in my bag and if I get used to them, I may be more willing to try out the RZN lineup later on.

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I'm always willing to try a new ball. Early on I rejected Nike actually because I felt they were restricting tiger's game. True or not I always believed he was at his best with his titleist stuff and that his long game took a hit with Nike.

 

That perception changed when a friend of mine gave my a sleeve of One Tour Ds to try. I was hooked after one hole. But for what ever reason I never seem to get around to Nike when looking at new equipment. I will try the appropriate ball from this line in hopes of recapturing the magic once shared with a Nike ball.

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I would certainly agree that Nike probably didn't fully understand the golf game when they got into it, but the demographics of golf are shifting, and I believe that works to Nike's advantage.

 

We're at a point now where an entire generation of golfers has never known the sport without Nike. Couple that with an aging population of tight-assed purists and I believe you're witnessing the leading edge of what will eventually lead to Nike's dominance in the golf industry. I know how crazy that sounds, but Time + money is a recipe for long term success, especially when you have more of both than anyone else. 

 

The commercials serve a purpose. If you want to know all of the technical details of RZN, they're out there, but that's not what this particular campaign is about. It's about poking fun at that old school mindset the "I would never play a..." guy. We all know that guy. Some of us are that guy. Play in the Now is about pushing people to accept things that are new and different in golf, and Play In The Now is about pushing people to accept that Nike Golf is here, just as authentic as Titleist (for example), and they're not going anywhere. Nike is The Now.

 

I mention Titleist because as far as how they run the business day to day, the closest parallel to Nike Golf you'll find is probably Titleist. It's a controlled principled approach that's largely unconcerned with what everyone else is doing. 

 

As for Rory...he had a bad year. I won't presume to know what happened, but clearly he was distracted last year (look at all of the stuff with the management company). The other thing most don't consider...apart from the implications of the switch itself (all new gear), Rory has ZERO input into the design of his clubs that went into his bag. That is to say that by the time he signed his Nike contract, the entire 2013 lineup was set in stone. What's different in 2014 is that Rory was part of the creation process. He had input, and he's certainly part of the reason why this year's Tour model is so different from lasts. 

 

Even with that down year, Rory remains immensely popular - and that will always be good for Nike. He's as good as a brand ambassador as you're likely to find (I say this based on my own experience with him at Nike's Innovation event). He's going to win and win often over the 9 years left on his Nike deal. 

 

One final thought: while Tiger has long been the face of the Nike golf brand, he's not the only Nike guy winning. A slew of different Nike guys win every year. Check your leaderboards, Nike guys habitually finish near the top in Majors. 

I don't think Nike ever "misunderstood" golf's demographics; they just seemed dead-set to do things differently from the start to try to create their market niche. As much as they claim in the industry to be going after the up and comers in youthful players, I see so little done in that arena to prime the future of the game, they may as well admit industry-wide that they are competing for the dwindling demographics that make up the "typical" golfer, which is still closer to the retirement home than the playground.

 

Titleist compared to Nike I can't agree with. Titleist has long held their position as a "ball-first" company and its afforded them more of a luxury to set their own tone, standards and practices unlike any other company. Big money capital firms and multnationals are changing this more every day in this industry, but Titleist is the golden goose to de-throne for a reason. Nike is 2nd fiddle for a RZN.

 

My take on Nike has not changed for a long time, or should I say, changes yearly with their product offerings. Some have been great. Some seem like big steps backwards. The continuity of their offerings is what is most glaring, or lack thereof, compared to a Titleist or a Ping. I was trending big time to becoming a big Nike guy with the VR Pro Combos in the bag and their VR Ltd driver and 3W. Then? The red-headed woods came out and they LOST me again. Being "different" has definitely been their downfall, as many products like square garbage can sounding drivers were so bad, it takes them years to recover. THAT is thanks to their deep pockets. They do take chances, I'll give them credit there. But the flops have been a bit much for them to overcome over the years.

 

And when myself and others would just like to see the Tour D ball back in production....

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Sounds like another fan of the Tour D. Why Nike oh why did you take that ball away?

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Sounds like another fan of the Tour D. Why Nike oh why did you take that ball away?

Those, and the TA2 LNG. I'd be happy as a clam if they brought either back. ha!

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I don't think Nike ever "misunderstood" golf's demographics; they just seemed dead-set to do things differently from the start to try to create their market niche. As much as they claim in the industry to be going after the up and comers in youthful players, I see so little done in that arena to prime the future of the game, they may as well admit industry-wide that they are competing for the dwindling demographics that make up the "typical" golfer, which is still closer to the retirement home than the playground.

 

Titleist compared to Nike I can't agree with. Titleist has long held their position as a "ball-first" company and its afforded them more of a luxury to set their own tone, standards and practices unlike any other company. Big money capital firms and multnationals are changing this more every day in this industry, but Titleist is the golden goose to de-throne for a reason. Nike is 2nd fiddle for a RZN.

 

My take on Nike has not changed for a long time, or should I say, changes yearly with their product offerings. Some have been great. Some seem like big steps backwards. The continuity of their offerings is what is most glaring, or lack thereof, compared to a Titleist or a Ping. I was trending big time to becoming a big Nike guy with the VR Pro Combos in the bag and their VR Ltd driver and 3W. Then? The red-headed woods came out and they LOST me again. Being "different" has definitely been their downfall, as many products like square garbage can sounding drivers were so bad, it takes them years to recover. THAT is thanks to their deep pockets. They do take chances, I'll give them credit there. But the flops have been a bit much for them to overcome over the years.

 

And when myself and others would just like to see the Tour D ball back in production....

 

Maybe I didn't convey my point about Titleist clearly. It's not about one thing or the other (yes...Titleist is ALL about the ball), it's about the way the business as a whole is run. It's very steady with Titleist, they don't live minute to minute by any particular product, it about sustaining, growing, and most importantly maintaining high margins.

Contrast that to how TaylorMade and Callaway operate. Each and every product comes with its own circus. Buy this! Buy This! Now buy this! And now this! It's basically minute to minute with an ever-changing focus to the next product du jour. While there is certainly a big picture corporate strategy, it manifests itself in such a way that every little thing appears critically important to their minute to minute success. It's really the byproduct of being so wrapped up in market share (on a month to month basis no less). Cut prices to near zero if you have to...sustain market share.

 

Nike is more like Titleist in that they're a big picture company. While they want products to succeed, they don't live and die by the success of any one thing, in any given year. It's a 30,000ft. view, where measurable steady growth is what matters. They're not going to mix it up with day to day noise like the other 2 companies with serious designs on either being #1, or remaining number one. Interesting side note, perhaps: While Callaway talks about 5 year wars, and hints at regaining the top spot (and they want their new die hard fans to think that's what happening), they don't have any real interest in going after market share like they have in the past. They too are laser focused on profitability from higher margins. I'd be shocked if you saw them crawl in the mud and slash prices like they have done in the past. 

 

PING, Titleist...they do well enough. They're happy where they are, and certainly aren't overly concerned about market share. Profitability (through high margins) is their thing, not domination. Nike wants both.

 

The SQ Square was an amazing club for guys who just wanted to hit it straight, but you're right...sounded like crap, was measurably shorter than anything on the market, and didn't do much for Nike's reputation. Of course, FT IQ wasn't great for Callaway (neither was the IZ), and the same is true of Titleist's 907 D1 triangle debacle (really, that whole 907 line was probably the worst thing they've ever done). You can recover quickly enough if you have the reputation. Nike didn't.

 

Love that you mentioned the VR Limited. I was talking about that driver with one of the editors at Golf Magazine. I told him the same story I've told all of you (Nike will be #1), and he asked me, "what have they ever made that was best in class for any given season"? It was a niche product ("Tour"/"Pro" driver), but there was nothing better at the time (and it still holds up pretty well). A true best in class product that most people never tried...or even really considered. On my first trip to the Kingdom, TMaG was going to try and fit me for something better...3 swings, and the fitter said "we can't do better".

 

I get you don't like the Red...that was a risk (but one I think that was worth taking for the impact it has had), but Nike is getting smarter (which is why a black Covert 2.0 is coming for those who want it).

 

The one thing Nike has never been able to get right are the irons. VR Pro Combos are very good, but in the grand scheme of things, they're also a niche product (5% of the market potential, tops). There's just nothing else in the lineup that's going to do well. The new irons are good, but they don't look the part...they don't look any part. Cosmetically they don't move the needle, and that's going to inhibit the kind of growth they want.

 

Nike went from 4% to 8% of the driver market last year. I don't think another 4% is out of the question this year (with metalwoods up across the board), but I suspect irons will be stagnant (again), and that's probably Nike's biggest hurdle to wider success.

 

Sorry guys...I know you loved the Tour D...lots of people did, but Nike believes RZN is where it's at. Technologically, the benefits make sense on paper, and what I've seen so far suggests a very, very good ball, but as I've said before, Titleist's dominance in the ball market is likely untouchable for at least the next decade (even TaylorMade gave up - but their current ball strategy is actually pretty freakin brilliant - happy to say more if anyone cares).

 

The only thing that could change that is a technology that visibly and unquestionably outperforms rubber (remember Titleist is only dominant because of Nike's breakthrough with rubber core). While nothing is ever impossible, rubber became the thing because of distance. Those breakthroughs won't happen again (USGA limits on balls are much more difficult to work around than limits on drivers), so advancement has to come in the form of a ball that flies straighter, is less impacted by wind, and spins significantly more around the green, without adding driver spin. Nothing is impossible, but the probabilities don't look good, especially when most golfers can seldom beyond distance.

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Nike can't exactly put their golf brand up for sale to another buyer. Its Nike Golf. Whereas Titleist was just one of many brands for Fortune and now Mirae Asset. Shareholders didn't like the profit margins, they were sold.

Nike is gonna eat the losses if the golf thing doesn't turn out for them, which will have impacts on their other areas. They need the golf part to work out for a reason. It could hurt them for a long time if it doesn't. I can see why they are so "all in" in their efforts. They have to be.

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Nike can't exactly put their golf brand up for sale to another buyer. Its Nike Golf. Whereas Titleist was just one of many brands for Fortune and now Mirae Asset. Shareholders didn't like the profit margins, they were sold.

Nike is gonna eat the losses if the golf thing doesn't turn out for them, which will have impacts on their other areas. They need the golf part to work out for a reason. It could hurt them for a long time if it doesn't. I can see why they are so "all in" in their efforts. They have to be.

 

Yes and No...Nike is a huge corporation, profits and money matter. But at the same time, we're talking about a company that has an entire division devoted to basically giving money away. They have more money than they need (even by giant corporate standards).

 

It's funny. Whenever any golf company is rumored to be for sale, Nike always comes up as a potential buyer. Maybe they do buy a Callaway and take over that way. My read based on my conversations with the higher-ups is that they're committed to the Nike formula. They see signs it's working, and they're not going to deviate and start doing golf the way TaylorMade and Callaway do. It's measured, it's principled.

 

I think it's going to work, but at this point, I've said it will for so long, that I'm as invested in not looking like an idiot if they fail as I am anything else.

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Is Nike Golf not already moving marketshare from the competition a little at a time? I have the perception that Nike Golf will work their way to the top. If it happens quickly, great; If it happens slowly, they are not worried because they know it will still happen.

 

I like what I hear about the metalwoods. If I was in the market for a new driver today the Covert 2.0 would be my first one to try. I really like what I've heard about the ball. I doubt the commercials will make a difference as I was interested in trying the ball based on the reviews/comments on the Nike 2014 blog post on this site.

 

Most of the crowd I talk and play golf with don't want to experiment with $4+ balls so they are either going to stay with Titleist because its Titleist or they might try something new because it's less and they hear it works as good or better. We may be "cheap" to guys who pay hundreds for thier rounds but rather "budget conscious" middle class Americans is what I would proclaim.

 

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No, nothing. I think I get the message- which is not too difficult- but I expect more from Nike. So maybe that is something, actually. They are mildly entertaining but not what I would expect from Nike, who have brought much more entertaining and current advertising to golf. I guess my reaction is one of disappointment.

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I picked up some sample balls at a recent Nike demo day.  I got one RZN Platinum and one RZN Black.  We still have snow in the ground so the only thing I have been able to do is chip and putt in the basement.  The Nike rep says they both have the same cover and feel the same off the putter, but I disagree.  The differences are subtle, but real nonetheless.

 

The RZN Black feels a lot like the Pro V1X off the putter (very good) although it sounds a little clicky and the Platinum feels even better to me.  It's so soft that you almost can't hear it when you hit it (more like Pro V1 sound).  They both spin well on little 10 foot chips, with the Platinum spinning more.  

 

Can't wait to see what these are like in real golf conditions.  If wind performance is as reported then the Platinum may be my next ball.  This would be my first Nike ball since the TW4.

 

And I think the commercials are funny, but I was going to try the balls even if there were no commercials.

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