Nike’s golfers are hitting a dry spell — and the athletic apparel brand needs a win.
While it’s no curse of the Bambino, a Nike golfer hasn’t won a major golf tournament in the prior eight championships, ESPN Sports business reporter Darren Rovell noted on Twitter on Monday.
That makes this the longest drought for Nike’s golf roster since 2004.
A Nike golfer hasn’t won a major in 8 straight, the longest since a 9-major drought in 2003-04.
— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) August 1, 2016
Nike built its modern golf business on Tiger Wood’s success, signing the young superstar in 1996, when he was just 20. Wood’s Nike shirts became iconic, eventually spawning Nike’s Tiger Woods apparel collection.
With Woods, Nike had made its name synonymous with golf superstardom. Now, the brand is struggling to find a new saviour — and avoid becoming seen as a golf course curse.
1994 U.S. Amateur. TPC Sawgrass. pic.twitter.com/qicoSedeEY
— Brendan Porath (@BrendanPorath) May 11, 2016
Tiger Woods fall from grace began with a sex scandal in 2009. While his comeback has been eagerly awaited in the last seven years, it has never come to fruition.
Throughout all of his struggles, Woods has stayed faithful to Nike, tweeting his support of the company in May.
What a great read. The lows, the tragedy & the will & belief to create something thats never been done. Much Respect pic.twitter.com/KhytVQEeZo
— Tiger Woods (@TigerWoods) May 12, 2016
With Woods unable to put Nike on the leaderboard, the sports apparel company has looked elsewhere for big names for its golf business.
Rory McIlroy seemed like the brand’s saviour, with Bloomberg writing an article headlined “Rory McIlroy Helps Nike Keep Golf Alive After Tiger” in August 2014. McIlroy had recently become one of three golfers to win three majors by age 25, when he won the 2014 Open Championship in July.
“Rory’s performance this summer has been electrifying,” Nike golf president Cindy Davis wrote Bloomberg in an email at the time. “Nike Golf has a strong stable of global athletes including two extraordinary talents in Tiger and Rory. They are the two dominant players in golf who create the most energy around our sport.”
Now, however, world no. 4 McIlroy is struggling himself.
Nike has attempted to build out its golfer roster, announcing that 14 new golfers signed to the brand in January, including Brooks Koepka who tied for 4th in the PGA Championship despite
an ankle injury. However, in July, Charl Schwartzel — who had been with Nike since 2008 — made the switch to PXG, a golf equipment company founded by GoDaddy founder Bob Parson in 2014.
Ultimately, Nike’s current roster of golfers hasn’t been able to get a win in two years — and the apparel company needs a win.
As Under Armour is increasingly competing for Nike’s customers, the company is moving into the golf business. The rising sports apparel and footwear company introduced its first line of golf shoes in March, part of a more subtle and nuanced strategy for entering the golf business than Nike’s flashy, superstar-centric approach.
“The golf consumer can smell a rat,” Ryan Kuehl, Under Armour’s vice president for sports marketing and sponsorships, told Business Insider in March. “We’ve got to talk like a golf brand. We’ve got to act like a golf brand. We’ve got to behave like a golf brand. And we have to build products like a golf brand for us to compete.”
Nike can get potentially draw notoriously loyal golf consumers away from established golf brands, if the company can produce the results. However, with the current lack of champions, the shortcomings of Nike’s strategy of relying on a handful of superstars is becoming apparent.
Right now, it’s looking like Nike’s golf business needs to break a curse — and not just when it comes to winning championships.
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