Lucas Glover: Nike’s New Selling Muscle
By Stephanie Wei under General

Nike will launch its new Victory Red STR8-FIT Tour fairway woods this month without Tiger Woods featured in a commercial giving his trustworthy testimony. In fact, Tiger, who inspired the Victory Red name with his tradition of wearing red shirts in the final round, isn’t even referenced in the marketing materials. Alternatively, they boast that the respected Lucas Glover, who was virtually an unknown before he won the 2009 US Open, tested the clubs in tournament play.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the absence of Tiger is very bad for Nike:

Nike’s inability to bank on Mr. Woods — who remains a Nike-sponsored athlete but is postponing his career as he deals with the fallout from his alleged extramarital affairs — comes at a problematic time. The Beaverton, Ore., company has faced deteriorating golf sales because of the recession. Annual revenue at the Nike Golf division fell 11% last year to $648 million after peaking at $725 million the year before.

Still, some of Nike’s retail partners said they expect the company’s clubs to sell well in 2010, with or without Mr. Woods to champion them.

But Nike remains optimistic and doesn’t believe in a long-term negative impact:

“We feel very good about how we are managing our golf business through this period and our position in the broader golf market,” [Chief Executive Mark] Parker said, adding, “We’ll continue to support Tiger and his family as we, of course, look forward to his return.”

Nike must be thrilled that the golfer it pays approximately $30 million a year has disappeared. But ultimately the company will be just fine — all golf manufacturers have experienced declines in sales because of the economy. And, as the WSJ notes, “overall revenue grew 3% to $19.2 billion in fiscal 2009.”

Tom Stine, co-founder of Golf Datatech, chipped in, “Nike golfers won two major tournaments last year, and neither guy was named Tiger Woods.” You know, like Stewart Cink, the 2009 British Open Champion, and of course, Glover. And, there’s Paul Casey, who is currently spotlighted on the website’s front page in a promotional video of the Victory Red driver. Now they’re great players, but will they have the same selling power as Tiger did? Uhhh…

For old time’s sake, here’s the commercial for the Victory Red irons Tiger helped create:

Good thing Nike has Glover, Cink and Casey to step in for those three Tiger Woods. There’s always David Duval, too.