Tiger Woods and Nike is a partnership that everyone knew. It was just something that went hand in hand, they were synonymous with each other. When news broke that the two would be parting ways, it came as a shock to many.

Nike Tiger
29 Aug 1996: Tiger Woods lines up a shot during the Greater Milwaukee Open at the Brown Deer Park golf course in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Mandatory Credit: J.D. Cuban /Allsport

 

Jordan Rogers, ex-Nike Brand Marketing Director has spent a fair bit of time over the last month or so talking about Tiger leaving Nike, why they’re stepping away from golf and what it potentially means for the brand.

He’s well worth a follow by the way, you can find him on Instagram at @jordanrogers.

The sport that Nike is most synonymous with is running, it’s what the foundations of the business were built on. However in recent years, a number of new emerging brands have burst onto the scene and have been taking over. The likes of Hoka and On Running kicked the doors off the hinges of the running industry and have now established themselves as big players in the game.

This chart tells you all you need to know.

 

It’s not that Nike have neglected running, or got complacent with it, but are going to be refocusing their efforts on the space. It’s not a good look when the sport that you are known for and built your brand in, is being taken over by the new kids on the block.

In order to do that, something has to give and golf is that thing that’s giving way.

In an interview with Bloomberg back in 2017, co-founder Phil Knight revealed that in 20 years, Nike lost money on their venture into golf.

“It’s a fairly simple equation, that we lost money for 20 years on equipment and balls,”

I think it’s fair to assume that the same could be said for their apparel, and it also won’t have changed much in the six years since that interview.

That’s not to say that having Tiger Woods a part of your brand was the wrong move.

Nike

 

The signing of Tiger Woods in 1996 when he turned professional was a no-brainer. He was a ridiculously talented 20 year-old kid who everyone knew was going to go on to dominate the sport for years to come. It was classic Nike, find the up and coming kid who everyone is raving about and sign them. It’s exactly what they did with the likes of Michael Jordan, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lebron James.

So what’s happened with Tiger now? Well he’s no longer at the top of his game, and hasn’t been for some time. However it’s fair to say that he’s still a massive draw for attention and an established brand in his own right.

It was announced recently that he’s linked up with TaylorMade to launch his own line of clothing under the brand name ‘Sun Day Red’.

Sun Day Red

 

Sun Day Red markets itself as a “premium active lifestyle brand,” with full apparel and footwear lines as well as luxury logo tees, fleece and hats for everyday wear.

The name comes from his tradition of wearing a red shirt on the final day of a tournament. His red top became synonymous with the final day and is something fans looked forward to seeing, especially when he was in contention for a title.

TaylorMade have been his equipment providers since 2017 after Nike stopped making golf equipment. Sun Day Red is produced by TaylorMade but it will sit as a entirely separate entity away from the main brand.

It also has a brand new logo depicting a tiger jumping, replacing the “TW” logo he used during his time with Nike. The tiger is made up of 15 stripes, a nod to the 15 major titles that Woods has won during his career.

Why have they called it ‘Sun Day Red’ and not used Sunday in it’s traditional spelling? Well according to TaylorMade CEO David Abeles it’s a strategic move. It comes from Tiger, the “Rule of Threes” and how there is “power in threes”.

In a press release Woods said: “I have learned so much over the years and have a lifetime of experience adjusting my apparel and footwear to help me play better based on the way it was constructed,”

“There are thing I could tell you that no one knew I was doing over the years. I’m ready to share secrets with the world. Sun Day Red will embody a love of playing and competing, and we are for people that share those values, whether it’s on the course, or in life. We will be anchored to putting the athlete first in the product decisions we make.”

I find that line about putting the athlete first in the product decisions really interesting because he’s clearly coming into this with the ambition of establishing Sun Day Red as a main player in the market and not just a gimmick that has a famous name attached to it, that will quickly fall out of the public eye.

But what about the rest of the golf apparel space?

Nike also recently lost Jason Day, the world number 19 to Malbon Golf. He reportedly signed a $10 million a year contract, making him Malbon’s first PGA Tour ambassador.

Nike Malbon

 

Malbon Golf are what some people would call a more fashion-focused golf brand. Founded in 2017 in Los Angeles, Malbon describe themselves as a “lifestyle brand inspired by the game of golf.” And they say their mission is “To inspire today’s youth to participate in the greatest game on Earth.”

When asked about why they were now looking to partner with pro athletes, co-founder Stephen Malbon said: “By partnering with professional athletes, I hope to show a relatable, approachable, and creative side to pro golfers. My aim is to break down barriers, showcasing the human side of these remarkable athletes and emphasizing the diverse talents, personalities, and passions that make them unique. If Malbon can make it on tour, it gives inspiration and hope to other upcoming brands.”

Lululemon have also recently entered the world of golf, signing Australian Min Woo Lee. The rising star made his PGA Tour debut at the beginning of this year, and we recently saw lululelmon employ some unconventional marketing techniques at the WM Phoenix Open.

 

They kitted out hundreds of Min Woo Lee fans out in their gear, along with chef hats embroidered with the phrase “Let Him Cook” which has become synonymous with the player. (Something we covered in our 3-2-1 newsletter a few weeks ago. (Sign up, it’s worth it. Promise.)

The golf apparel market was valued at a reported $3 billion in 2023 and is expected to reach $5.4 billion in the next ten years. Even with Nike jumping ship, the market is huge.

With a new generation of golfers entering the sport, a generation that are younger and more fashion conscious, there is a massive opportunity for new fashionable brands to capitalise. There’s clearly been a shift in the market from performance based clothing, to a more fashion and lifestyle focus for apparel.

Will Sun Day Red succeed? It’s impossible to say right now. However, when you’ve got one of the greatest players of the game ever behind it, I’d like to say I fancy their chances of success.

If you’d like to get access to articles like this, earlier than anyone else, we’ve started to these out exclusively to our email subscribers 24 hours before they go live on our website! You can join them here.

To read more from our Insight series, click here.