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Nike co-founder bluntly explains golf equipment exit

The co-founder of Nike, Phil Knight, has bluntly revealed why the world’s largest athletic brand pulled out of the golf equipment industry.

News that Nike would stop producing golf clubs, balls and bags sent shockwaves through the golfing world when it broke on August 3 and resulted in some of the sport’s biggest names – Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Michelle Wie – to find new equipment partners.

The company’s focus switched towards being the ‘undisputed leader in golf footwear and apparel’, with Knight revealing that the equipment was never profitable.

“It’s a fairly simple equation,” Knight told Bloomberg. “We lost money for 20 years on equipment and balls and realised that next year [2017] wasn’t going to be any different.” 

Knight’s comments hit home the struggles Nike faced in establishing itself as a serious and sustainable competitor to the likes of Callaway, TaylorMade, Titleist and Ping – with one suggested reason for the struggle that the company didn’t have a driver that resonated with consumers.

Revenues for Nike as an organisation went up $2b in 2015 to $32b but the Nike Golf division continued to make losses – and that was despite having Woods using clubs since 2002 and McIlroy since 2013.

Nevertheless, Nike have continued to expand their roster of athletes. Thomas Pieters, Alex Noren and Alexander Levy signed apparel and footwear deals earlier this year, while Jason Day (above) did the same last September in a reported $10m per year deal.


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