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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Adidas Aims to Keep Leadership in Golf Market With Radar Analysis of Swing


Adidas AG, the maker of TaylorMade golf clubs, said it plans to maintain its newfound position as the sport’s biggest supplier with the help of computer images and radar systems that analyze players’ swings.

With golf revenue of 860 million euros ($1.05 billion) in the year through March, Adidas achieved global leadership of the $7.5 billion market, Mark King, head of the company’s golf business, said in an interview late yesterday.

To build on its No. 1 position, TaylorMade plans to open centers that allow players to purchase customized clubs after having their swing analyzed with highspeed cameras. The first one opened near Adidas headquarters in Herzogenaurach, Germany, last year and a second will follow in Wentworth, southern England, in September. Adidas also aims to expand its Ashworth apparel brand and seek acquisitions, King said.

“Customers respond to our innovativeness, which helped us to become the global market leader in golf,” King said after playing in a tournament along with Adidas Chief Executive Officer Herbert Hainer and Spanish golfer Sergio Garcia.

Adidas said its golf sales overtook Fortune Brands Inc. after the maker of Titleist balls sold its Cobra unit in April. First-quarter golf revenue rose 16 percent excluding currency swings to 223 million euros, the German company said.

At the Herzogenaurach golf center, six highspeed cameras follow a player’s movements to create a three-dimensional computer-animated swing image. In a second step, a Doppler-radar supported tool follows the golf ball’s flight and reports launch angle, spin rate and initial shot velocity.

Customized Clubs

“After some 120 shots the computer proposes a perfectly customized club,” said Ryan Lauder, TaylorMade marketing chief for the Europe, Middle East and Africa region. Technicians then build a customized set of clubs for the customer within two hours, choosing from 3,000 club shafts and 2,000 heads.

There is currently a six-week waiting list for the analysis, which costs 250 euros, Lauder said. The first center will become profitable within the next three years, he said.

“The major trend in golf is customization, that’s what it’s all about,” King said. About 8 percent of Adidas’s revenue is derived from the sport.

Adidas says it outfits more players than any rival on the world’s top seven professional tours, including the PGA Tour.

“There is an evident relation between the number of outfitted golf professionals and the companies’ sales,” said Peter Steiner, an amateur player and analyst at BHF Bank in Frankfurt. He has a “reduce” rating on Adidas.

Nike, Callaway

Nike Inc.’s golf revenue for the fiscal year ended May 31 was $638 million, a 2 percent decline from the previous year. Callaway Golf Co., the maker of Big Bertha clubs, reported a 15 percent decline in 2009 revenue to $951 million.

Adidas plans to boost sales of its Ashworth apparel brand, which was acquired in 2008, to as much as $250 million from about $60 million within the next six years, King said.

“We have to break traditions in golf, we have to make the sport cooler, we have to make our brand cool,” he said.

TaylorMade’s revenue will be little changed this year, King said, reiterating an earlier forecast. The unit is considering acquisitions, without having specific plans, and is targeting competitors who are strong in the women’s, seniors’ and lifestyle areas, according to King.

“The golf market is a very fragmented one where we may see more acquisitions in the future,” BHF Bank’s Steiner said.