Slice of Life
Nobody asked me but I'm gonna give you my assessment of some of the recently seen TV golf commercials. That way I might be able to write off my Lazy Boy chair, my TV set and that area of "my den office" exclusively reserved for viewing, snacking and napping.
First off, what's up with those annoying Foot-Joy commercials? I've watched them painfully on several occasions and the garish cartoon format still baffles me. Vijay Singh is not even a compelling figure as a real person let alone as an animated one. More importantly, I can't even recall the sales message even under hypnosis. Too bad for Foot-Joy because it had a sure-fire winner in the iconic "Signboy" the last several years. Last I heard, Matt Greaser, the actor who played the hilarious Signboy, was in a pilot for ABC-TV sitcom, is doing some "Best Buy" commercials, and is even considering being used as an offbeat TV golf announcer. Come back, Shane! Come back, Signboy!
The sister company of Foot-Joy, Titleist, is making a more impressionable commercial, even with its underlying and controversial message, in its ongoing "Ban the NXT" spot. The ad mavens at Titleist made a shrewd choice in selecting the ever-talented John Cleese as the crazed and protesting (against longer golf balls) course designer MacCallister. To me, the former Monty Python Cleese is a comic genius. However, using the popular Cleese in this "funny" way also neatly deflects the possible criticism raised by many that this ad campaign trivializes the issue of the dire effects of technology and longer golf balls on golf course design. How can you make course designers the "bad guys" here, even if portrayed in absurd, comic terms? Sure, course designers, USGA Rules officials, and golfers have a sense of humor; but still there is a crucial issue here for the game and classic course design.
Even the PGA TOUR players are finally waking up to the "hot" golf ball matter. In a recent Sports Illustrated Golf Plus survey of 70 TOUR players, 60 percent of those players agreed that "new limits be imposed on the golf ball to reduce distance." So underneath this spot is a sly marketing retort by Titleist to that growing concern. As such, I would prefer my portion of Cleese being relished without undo guilt and reservation.
In an "equal time" segment for Acushnet, let me say I continue to enjoy the understated Titleist golf ball commercials. I like the one where Phil Mickelson is seen pulling off another one of his patented flop shots at a TOUR event. And the tag lines are effective: "Trusting your instinct is only part of it" and "Titleist: Trusted by more of the world's best players." Nice follow up to its catchy "I've played Titleist since..." campaign.
On the subject of golf balls, I'm impressed by both the new "Callaway HX" and the new "Wilson Staff True" golf ball spots. Callaway invariably makes sharp, hip commercials. In the HX spot, sharp, high-tech graphics and quick edits all propel the simple message that this ball is differently made, being "the next generation of aerodynamics." I also note how no narration is used; instead Callaway player Rocco Mediate is seen at one point in an actual event (or at least so it seems) urging on his HX drive: "Just stay up there!" Good stuff.
Wilson uses Ben Crenshaw in equally smart fashion. It made a deft move in retaining Crenshaw to help launch "True," its "perfectly balanced golf ball." Even though Ben's game may not ever rise again-even on the Senior TOUR-to its once proud prominence, he is still synonymous with masterful putting.
This spot is handsomely shot, depicting Ben's smooth stroke missing a 15-foot putt. Then, Ben is heard posing this query, "Ever wonder to yourself how you missed that?" Next the benefits of True's perfectly balanced qualities are cited and lo and behold, Ben is next seen canning the same putt. No mention of any competitors' supposed inferior and unbalanced balls is made. Why associate Ben and his warm, good guy image with the nasty business of lawsuits and "false advertising claims" (filed by Spalding against Wilson in federal court.) Instead the spot ends simply with a silhouette of a golfer carrying his clubs in the middle of the fairway while the voice over says: "Putts Truer. Flies Longer." All in all, Wilson deserves an "A" for both concept and execution for staking a niche claim to the "balanced" ball beachhead amid the fierce theatre of "distance" golf ball marketing. MG
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