WHISTLER, BRITISH COLUMBIA | The stuff looks great, and not just on mannequins and models. So much of today’s golf wear, particularly prints, looks like something Al Czervik would wear in Caddyshack. You almost roll your eyes and say, “It looks good on you, though.” Granted, the game is going after a younger demographic, and there is no qualifying bad taste, but some of the stuff makes you wonder if anybody is supervising today’s design teams.
Not so with Adidas golf, which just launched a fall and winter outerwear line that does what many considered impossible: It makes cool-weather clothing look good on Gen-Z youngsters holding up cell phones to take selfies, and it looks just as good on 60-year-old men who saw Caddyshack in theaters back in 1980.
At a preview event in Whistler, the Adidas golf team (and there is still some division, even among the brand ambassadors, as to whether the A is capitalized and whether the accent is on the first or second syllable) unveiled a new line of pants, fleece outerwear, great-looking shoes and something called Rain.rdy wet-weather clothing, basically a new rain suit that won’t come out until October 31.
The line hits in two important respects: It’s not tailored to a specific demographic, and it performs exceptionally well on the course while looking good off of it.
“Credibility is two-fold for us,” said Shaun Madigan, the global director of apparel for Adidas during dinner at the Fairmont hotel in Whistler. “There is product credibility and sport credibility. Sport credibility is incredibly important, not just for golf. We have to ensure that Adidas the global brand is the best performing product for the athlete.”
OK, so Adidas put out some new jackets and pants. Why is that a story?
It’s important on a couple of fronts. Too many consumers dismissed Adidas from the golf space after they sold (or, as the executives there say, “decoupled”) TaylorMade. In the minds of many consumers, Adidas golf still existed, but it was a shoe and shirt company that, oh by the way, you could wear to play golf.
This new fall line puts that myth to rest. The detail and testing the company did for this collection reinforces the notion that Adidas is in golf for the long term.
It also shows that the company understands the modern needs of the consumer. Today’s golfer – man or woman – doesn’t want to change clothes three times a day. The clothes he wears to the office in the morning are the clothes he wants to wear to the golf course in the afternoon and to dinner that night.
“We set out to build a product that extends the season,” Madigan said about the new fall line. “I grew up in Western New York where it’s very cold, so I know, very few people truly enjoy playing in wet, cold weather. Each fall season, we are trying to build product that encourages you to play in those conditions. It’s not ideal, but we’re doing everything we can to maximize and extend the (golf) season.
“With this line, we brought innovation and we brought performance, but we did it in a more versatile, wearable way. You don’t look like you’re going to the golf course. That’s what we set out to achieve.”
“COVID has really changed a lot of things, and the golf consumer is no exception. We have a lot more people in the golf space than ever before, and our existing golf consumer is outdoors more than ever before.” – Sarah Marai
Then Madigan got the heart of the business.
“In all of North American apparel, layering makes up 18 percent of that business, and outerwear makes up 11 percent (as a subset),” he said. “For Adidas golf, layering is 15 percent of our business and outerwear is seven percent. We are a sports performance company. We have competition that are outerwear companies first and foremost. We are a company that is sports-performance driven but that also makes outerwear. Does that mean it’s less credible? No, not at all. The testing we put our products through is second to none. But it’s not always our lead story.
“We want to try to close in on that market gap and revitalize the market around Adidas golf, whether it’s a cold-weather or a wet-weather product.”
The company also sees an opportunity in current market conditions.
“COVID has really changed a lot of things, and the golf consumer is no exception,” said Sarah Marai, senior manager of global men’s apparel. “We have a lot more people in the golf space than ever before, and our existing golf consumer is outdoors more than ever before.
“Also, you want more from your golf apparel. You don’t just want clothing that fits well. You want to look like you do in everyday life. So the consumers are expecting more from their clothes than they ever have in the past.”
That last part is where Adidas executives see potential, not just with this fall and winter line, but going forward.
“When I first started at Adidas, we used to say, ‘Golf is slow and trends are slow to change,’ but that’s not the case anymore,” Marai said. “You see that golf is leading in many of these areas. And you see brands outside of golf being led by golf. It’s really an exciting time to be a part of golf and not just following fashion but leading fashion.”
Typically, Adidas has an 18-month timeframe to design and launch a new product line. For this fall’s fleece and outerwear, they took 22 months. According to Marai, “We had a small focus group that met every week. And we always focus on the athlete.”
From a marketing perspective, Adidas departs from its competitors. Yes, the company has Xander Schauffele and Danielle Kang on staff, but they also have long-drive competitor Troy Mullins and trick-shot and social media sensation Tania Tare.
Tare was onsite in Whistler, and her candor about her relationship with Adidas proved incredibly refreshing, especially since she made all her remarks with top executives standing nearby.
“With the Adidas outerwear, even in Arizona, I can wear this stuff (outerwear) and be quite comfortable on the course. But then we go into the clubhouse, in air conditioning, to have drinks. The people I’m with are cold, and I’m, again, quite comfortable.” – Tania Tare
“When I’m playing or doing trick shots, the one thing I struggle most with is finding something (in outerwear) that looks good but that isn’t tight under the armpits, but also is warm but light,” Tare said. “When I play in New Zealand, where it’s mostly cold, you have to decide if you want to be warm or comfortable. You have to pick one.
“But I wear warm stuff all the time. With the Adidas outerwear, even in Arizona, I can wear this stuff (outerwear) and be quite comfortable on the course. But then we go into the clubhouse, in air conditioning, to have drinks. The people I’m with are cold, and I’m, again, quite comfortable.
“The thing is, especially doing trick shots, I need to be able to move in very specific ways. I wouldn’t wear a brand or a product that wasn’t comfortable or that didn’t allow me to do what I need to do. I’ll never fake it. The people at Adidas have always understood that. And I always end up wearing the most recent products they have.”
Photos: Courtesy Adidas
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