By Published on .

After two decades in the auto industry, Jan Thompson decided it was time to pursue her other passion: golf.

Since September, Ms. Thompson, VP-general manager of the U.S. Golf Division of Wilson Sporting Goods Co., has been combining her knowledge of marketing with her love for the sport.

In addition to streamlining operations, she has encouraged a shift in focus to Wilson's core products, such as their pro clubs and balls.

Ms. Thompson, 45, a previous member of the Marketing 100 for her work introducing a new product-the Mazda Miata-is now rejuvenating "an 80-year-old brand."

"We have done a lot of research to see what attributes our products have that we have not yet taken full advantage of," she adds. "We have tried to position ourselves in a value-oriented marketplace using those strengths."

Ads by Ogilvy & Mather, Chicago, which joined the Wilson team around the same time as Ms. Thompson, have taken the new direction. Some ads humorously emphasize Wilson's commitment to technologically up-to-date products, explaining that NASA scientists design Wilson golf balls.

In January, Wilson introduced the Staff midsize clubs to the consumer with great success.

"These clubs have exceeded our expectations," says Ms. Thompson. "We are 20% ahead of our forecast in sales and we have the plant working 7 days a week to produce more clubs."

A next step is to target beginning golfers. "We are concentrating efforts on new ways to get beginners a good set of clubs at a reasonable price," she says. "Having the right equipment when you are first starting out is very important."

Revenues for Wilson Golf totaled more than $200 million in '94, a 6% increase. Ms. Thompson expects a minimum 10% growth for 1995.

"I see it as mom, apple pie, Chevrolet and Wilson," Ms. Thompson adds.

Most Popular
In this article: