THE MARKETING 100: THE BIGGEST BIG BERTHA: BRUCE PARKER

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Serious golfers know the only way to know if a golf club is any good is to use it.

Therefore, Bruce Parker, president of Callaway Golf Sales Co., knew the best way to introduced The Biggest Big Bertha was to invite 500 golfing retailers and professionals to take a swing.

"We introduced it in January of 1997 at the [Professional Golf Association] trade show in Orlando," says Mr. Parker, 42. "Most of our golf clubs look alike. We believe The Biggest Big Bertha was the best performing golf club ever made -- not by a little, but by a lot. We never did anything like that [before]. We had a lot of conviction. The product was an instant success. Golf professionals liked it."

In fact, the $450 golf club was so sensational, Mr. Parker says all the product was shipped as soon as it was manufactured. The club was in such demand, break-ins were reported at pro shops in parts of the U.S., where the burglars took only The Biggest Big Berthas, leaving other expensive golf merchandise undisturbed.

"Between introduction and January, we weren't able to do any big promotions, because we virtually had no inventory," says Mr. Parker.

Mr. Parker says the in-store displays continue to be generic for Callaway products because The Biggest is only one of 20 clubs his company markets.

Ads focusing on The Biggest broke in January, featuring celebrities such as Celine Dion, Bill Gates and chef Nobu Matsuhisa.

"Recently we've had some very good luck -- some very famous people falling in love with this product. All of them offered to do TV ads for us, because of their affection for the product," says Mr. Parker.

Dailey & Associates, Los Angeles, was hired last summer to handle advertising for Callaway. Callaway expects to spend about $22 million on TV and print in 1998 -- a boost from its $17 million in 1997. Mr. Parker says Callaway will spend about $50 million on all promotions this year.

"I can't overstate how well the product performs, which makes everything else easy. That was the first step -- to make the best product," says Mr. Parker.

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