Is Nike About To Quit The Game Of Golf For Good?

Is the end of the 27 year relationship between Nike and Tiger Woods pointing to something larger within Nike Golf?

Ever since Nike stopped making golf equipment back in 2016, I’ve always wondered whether its heart really remained in golf. The move last month to end the sport’s most notorious athlete-brand partnerships alongside Tiger Woods feels like the beginning of a conscious uncoupling from the sport itself. Woods hasn’t been the only roster move for Nike this year, with Jason Day’s switch to Malbon feeling like the the first of a few dominos to fall in this story. 

But why would Nike want to leave a sport that is still in a major period of growth, and why now? If we pan out to look at the wider Nike business, we can see that it is losing out considerably in its running division to new brands like Hoka and On Running. The business is planning to cut some $2 million in costs over the next few years, and golf would be a fairly easy sport for it to strip its funding from.  Running is the true core of Nike’s business – and its origins – and it seems there is a wider company shift to refocus back to its roots. Certainly, regaining one or two percent market share in running shoes will make the business a lot more money than the equivalent uptick in golf. 

Scottie Scheffler and Tommy Fleetwood are two of Nike’s biggest names still on the roster 

Golf has never really made Nike a lot of money – hence why it pulled out of the equipment business for good in 2016 – and it wasn’t getting much of a return on its investment with Tiger’s distinct lack of appearances in 2023. Sure, there are plenty of deals in place that will keep Nike in golf for the next few years at least, but how many of these contracts will be extended beyond the current deal? Rory’s deal runs out in 2027, while Scheffler’s and Fleetwood’s deals will likely be left to run too. 

While it doesn’t look like the TW brand will be lost to all of this – Tiger owns all of the rights to the TW logo – it won’t be long before we see the Nike TW range slowly drift away from shelves. The Sunday Red trademark applied for by TaylorMade was certainly an interesting development in this story, but we won’t find out who Tiger’s apparel sponsor will be until be reappears at Riviera in next week. 

Others point to a more optimistic future for the Nike’s presence in golf. New shoes are due ahead of the Masters this year, a special edition shoe has just been launched ahead of the Waste Management Phoenix Open this week, and there is a never ending cycle of fresh colorways from the brand’s Jordan golf shoe collection. Fresh deals with Tom Kim and Nelly Korda struck in 2023 point toward some motivation to keep the best talent on the roster, as does the brand’s newest deal with Italian star Guido Migliozzi. 

I doubt we’ll ever see a day where the famous swoosh has totally vanished from the professional game, but the I’m fully expecting the brand’s investment in golf to decrease going forward.  

 

 

 

 

Gideon Canice

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