NGF TOP 100 BUSINESSES IN GOLF
Tim Clarke, President
Doug Thiel, Global Marketing Director
Doug Wright, Global Commercial Director
Mathias Lundblad, Global Product Director (Performance Golf)
Chris Rusin, National Sales Director
Jean-Pierre Degembe, Global Product Director (Hard Good Accessories)
Terry Larsen, Global Product Director (Recreational Golf Clubs)
Jon Pergande, Manager Golf Club Innovation
One of the world’s most iconic sporting brands, Wilson has been in business since 1914 and today has staff and offices in more than 100 countries around the globe. In 1936, Wilson was one of the six founding members of the National Golf Foundation and continues to have a major presence in golf as an equipment manufacturer.
The company has experienced its share of changes over the past century, but maintains its strong brand recognition with apparel and equipment created for better than a dozen sports.
Acquired by Finnish company, Amer Sports, in 1989, Wilson remains the world’s largest manufacturer of ball sports equipment and employs 1,600 people globally. Beyond its recognition from the 2000 film Cast Away, Wilson’s official branded balls are used by the NFL, NCAA and a host of other pro and collegiate sports and teams.
The company’s storied history extends to its Wilson Staff golf brand, as it long led the field with classic forged irons used by major championship winners and brand ambassador heavyweights like Arnold Palmer, Sam Snead and Billy Casper. Even Chevy Chase’s character in “Caddyshack” used Wilson clubs.
Today’s stable is more modest, including three-time major winner Padraig Harrington and three-time Tour winners Brendan Steele and Kevin Streelman. The company relies on insights from these players and other pros to help produce innovative products.
The brand in recent years has undertaken new public initiatives, most visibly a sponsorship of the popular Driver vs. Driver reality series on “The Golf Channel,” in which participants compete to build the best Wilson driver from inception, to prototype, to completed product. The program resulted in a significant increase in Wilson’s brand awareness, Wilson Golf President Tim Clarke said, and increased its reach with a younger generation.
“Our goal was –– and continues to be –– to push golf innovation into new territory,” Clarke said. “Throughout our 100 plus years of equipment expertise, we’ve never shied away from being opportunistic, creative and strategic, looking for inspiration and ideas outside our walls.”
Wilson has slowly and steadily built its market share in the years since Clarke took over the reins in 2006, as the company once owned and operated by PepsiCo management distanced itself from boxed sets and entry-level products.
Wilson Golf, which once had one of the best-selling balls in golf with the Ultra, has positioned itself well in relation to some of the biggest names in the equipment game during what Clarke acknowledges is a reboot of a 100-year-old brand. Wilson has also done an admirable job in classifying its iron lines in a way that’s relatively easy for the public to understand: F for the better players (or Feel Player), C for Crossover – or the brand’s basic game-improvement iron, and D for Distance and the super game-improvement category.