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Devil Ball Golf

How Nike changed their entire golf image in a few short weeks

Shane Bacon
Devil Ball Golf

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Rory McIlroy — Getty Images

Golf is unlike any sport on the planet when it comes to marketing their brand. Basketball players can push shoes, but 60-year-old men aren't salivating at what the new Lebrons are going to look like. The same goes for baseball bats or football gloves or soccer balls. Golf is an ageless sport and it seems the older we get, the more we try to find that "edge" within our game to get just that much better.

With that comes the golf companies. Dustin Johnson isn't just a TaylorMade brand ambassador, he is Patient X when it comes to productivity within their company. TaylorMade comes out with a new driver, Johnson wins with it in his bag that week and bam, you've sold a million more of those white-headed beasts.

[Related: Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy give us golf commercial of the year]

So what about Nike? The golf company that wasn't even a golf company until Tiger Woods signed his first endorsement check after his third U.S. Amateur win has slowly but surely made an imprint on this game. Woods switched to their clubs after a cup of coffee with Titleist and slowly integrated the Swoosh into his entire bag (with the final piece being the long, drawn-out breakup with his Scotty Cameron putter).

But Nike wasn't surging like some had expected. Woods personal life and golf game went off the side of a cliff, and can't-misses like Anthony Kim and David Duval slowly forgot how to hit a golf ball. The brand was relegated to living through the British Open win of Stewart Cink and the play of Paul Casey, who he himself has fallen from grace almost as extraordinarily as Kim did.

So here came 2013. If 2011 was the year of TaylorMade, and last season was a pretty darn good one for Ping, it seemed that '13 would be that one for Nike. They unveiled their first "wait, what?!" golf club in years with the VR_S, a cavity back driver that is as different as it is eye-catching. And then they started rolling in the big hitters.

Tiger is obviously the biggest name on any staff, but the additions of Nick Watney and Kyle Stanley helped (both seem like the type of players that, while maybe not top-five players on tour, will definitely snag the occasional win and don't seem to be going anywhere).

[Also: Top Florida girl golfer competed against girls only once]

Nike then quietly added Seung Yul Noh, one of the sneaky best pick-ups from any company in the offseason, and on Monday announced the "breaking" news that Rory McIlroy, No. 1 in the world and one of the most marketable athletes in the world right now, would be covered head to toe, putter to driver in Nike.

This announcement happened to come the day after Russell Henley won the Sony Open as a rookie and a Nike ambassador, and if you're talking about having a pretty solid start to the 2013 season, I'd say this is about as good as it gets (could you imagine if Rory and Tiger battled again this week in Abu Dhabi?).

Nike Golf needed a boost. It had struggled to find an identity on tour, and with every Jhonattan Vegas surprise win they had months of droughts from their top stars. Now it has the two biggest names in the game of golf by miles and already a rookie winner just two tournaments into the season. With the red driver hitting the market and Rory McIlroy pushing product worldwide, this could be a pretty fun year to be walking a golf course covered in Swoosh.

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