This writer took a bit of time to construct an interview for Mark Thaxton of Nike Golf. After a successful academic and athletic stretch at Wake Forest University, along with a few attempts at professional tournament golf, Mark Thaxton settled in at Nike. Given the moves that the Oregon sports giant has made in golf this year (equipment, tour players, apparel) it is fitting that one digs a bit into the history and responsibilities of an important member of the Nike Golf administrative team. Here is the first part of the interview (part one may be found here):
8. Charl Schwartzel, Francesco Molinari, Carl Petterson and Simon Dyson have made appearances in the states, with Petterson being a member and winner on the US PGA Tour, Schwartzel winning a Masters and Molinari playing in the Ryder Cup. We suspect that their profiles are more valauable to Nike Golf on the world stage, rather than in the USA. Is this the case? Do you anticipate utilizing them (or others) in future media campaigns in the USA?
We look at Nike Golf as a global brand. The PGA Tour is a global tour. We want athletes that can be top athletes in golf and win when people are watching golf. We have had success in the past other than Tiger (Duval- ‘01 Open Championship, Immelman- ‘08 Masters, Cink and Glover ‘09 US Open and Open Championship).
As far as using certain athletes, we are always exploring how to use all of our athletes all the way from TV to social media to grass roots.
9. What other members of your PGA Tour staffs have we overlooked, that you feel are poised for a break-out or comeback season?
Well, we have several great players. Let me just list some and comment about each. Kevin Chappell: look for good things from him this year. David Duval: back to Nike Golf this year. Russell Henley/Patrick Reed: At the start of this year I would have predicted good things from these 2 rookies. Easy to say Henley, since he has already won, but I can tell you, both are really good players and not scared to go low. Anthony Kim: coming back this year after multiple injuries. Seung Yul Noh: tremendous player and has the potential to be a top player in the world. Jhonny Vegas: best name in golf. Great talent and this could be a great year for him. Paul Casey: A long time staff member. Watch for him this year..he is ready. Thorbjorn Olesen: I don’t think anyone knows how good this young man is…only 23. The last one I will mention is Jamie Lovemark: He is healthy and ready to start his climb back to the PGA Tour. Could be a good year for him this year on the Web.com
10. Michelle Wie was signed to a high-profile contract in her mid-teens. Suzann Petersen is the most successful female athlete on the Nike Golf staff. Amanda Blumenhurst is the third member of the LPGA staff. Do you feel that women are underrepresented on the Nike Golf athlete staff? What direction could a a gender-balanced initiative take?
We are comfortable with our position on the LPGA Tour. We are always evaluating our position and our athletes.
11. Let’s switch tracks away from the professional game. Define for us the connection between Nike Golf and its consumers. What role does the average golfer play in Nike Golf’s development of equipment and apparel?
This is outside my realm, but what I can say is that I believe we are the most connected brand in golf and the consumer decides.
12. Walk us through Nike Golf’s efforts to communicate the value of its equipment and apparel to a young golfer, a female golfer, a middle-aged golfer and a senior golfer.
We have product for all levels of players. It is a simple formula. We make the best products for the best athletes in the world.tell great stories and connect with the consumer. Did you know that we have over 2 million followers on Facebook and Twitter combined?
13. The Nike VRS driver series will be joined in 2013 by the Covert series. How will they complement each other? Will one service one segment of the population versus the other?
We have two VRS Covert drivers. The VRS Covert (460 cc with a silver face) and the VRS Covert Tour (420 cc with a black face). Both of these drivers will work for all golfers. What we have seen is the VRS Covert driver creates a little more spin than the tour. Both will be played on the global tours this year.
14. What is on the horizon for Nike Golf? Any walking-specific shoes? New iron sets? Wedges? Shirts? Outerwear?
We continue to push the limits on technology in every category (Method putter technology, VRS Covert driver.the first high speed cavity back driver..etc..)
We will continue to have new products every year. The market has determined that they want it every year.
15. What questions haven’t we asked, that you would like to answer? If you can think of some, please ask and answer them.
After going through these questions, I am more excited about this year than ever. We have great products, great athletes and you will see great stories from us this year. 2013 will be a great year for Nike Golf.
Thank you for your time, Mark.