Who wins in the Puma/Cobra Golf Deal

Originally Posted April 1st/2010 – http://www.flagstick.com/editorsdesk/?p=782#comments

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Acushnet Company, which is the golf arm of Fortune Brands, Inc. announced March 10 that they signed an agreement to sell the Cobra Golf brand in it’s entirety to Puma.

On the outside, this may appear like just another cost-cutting mechanism by a major corporation who is struggling in tough economic times, as Acushnet is the proud parent of two of the biggest brands in golf already – Titleist and FootJoy.  And maybe it is, as later during the day of the announcement Fortune Brand’s President and CEO Bruce Carbonari addressed a Bank of America Merrill Lynch Consumer Conference in New York and made a brief mention of the deal.  He pointed to Cobra Golf as a slow growth portion of their golf business and referred to their other leading consumer brands as what they wanted to focus on. Thus the sale to Puma made sense to them.

Puma is a brand more known for its clothing and slowly but surely is getting into golf by sponsoring some of the most up-and-coming youngsters on Tour. Cobra also has on their staff some of the most cutting-edge style guys out there including Camilo Villegas.

Questions have already been asked of the pros, as many who are on staff with Cobra are also FootJoy faithful, not to mention what seems like a million touring professionals who play Pro V1’s. The public has been met with Tweets, Facebook status updates, and official website statements clarifying what they all will be playing moving forward.

But what about the rest of us?

We’ve already seen the benefits of corporate synergy in golf, as Taylormade and Adidas have blossomed as partners in the golf world  the past few years. We’ve also seen one company “Just Do It” all: clothes, balls, clubs… but they had You-Know-Who as it’s main product pusher.

Arguably this is the first time that two very opposite companies, one from clothing and one from hard goods, but both from the youthful edge of their industries, will team up.

Perhaps this may be a turning point for the Cobra hard goods brand to try to re-connect with the youth of today, because Puma certainly has that market on lock.

They’ve created bright, form-fitting wardrobes for all of the young tour pros that they sponsor and it hasn’t taken long for that style to reach young golfers everywhere.

You’re unable to walk through a clubhouse these days without seeing a bright pink shirt on a 21-year-old male, proudly standing beside members of a women’s league with shirts of the same colour.

By contrast, Cobra still makes clubs with senior flex.

That’s not to say Cobra isn’t successful, no, they have had a long-standing relationship with many golfers from top professionals to the weekend hackers.  Their sales of nearly $150 million annually would make them a top ten golf equipment manufacturer by themselves.

But Cobra will have to get used to targeting the ‘kids these days’ and get more into that niche market that Puma is used to targeting. Whether “Pumbra” will be able to translate their clothing successes into hard goods will still be a stretch, but it’s clear that the rivalry between Adidas/Taylormade, Nike, and Puma will reach new heights.

The official acquisition of Cobra by Puma is expected to occur in early summer of 2010, and only then will we be able to see any sort of brand synergy.

Who knows what this will do for the golf industry.  Perhaps Callaway and Ping will feel out of the loop because they don’t have a hip clothing partner and look to find one as well?

We will have to wait and see, but this may reignite the passionate brand rivalries of the early 1990’s when golf grew to unprecedented heights.

One thing IS for sure: it’s a great time to be a consumer.

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4 thoughts on “Who wins in the Puma/Cobra Golf Deal

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