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Wilson Sporting Goods Co. entered the media-dubbed "golf ball wars" armed with titanium technology and help from man's best friend. The Wilson Staff Titanium family of golf balls-Straight Distance, Spin, Balata, and Double Ti-were the first to use titanium compounds inside the core.

The brand was launched in November 1996 with its first model, Balata. With the January 1998 launch of the Titanium Double Ti, Wilson took a grass-roots approach in promoting the golf ball, Jeff Christensen, business director for golf balls at Wilson's Golf division, says.

Wilson set up first tee sampling at 1,500 golf courses around the country last winter and spring, distributing two-ball sample packs along with product information to golfers. Of golfers who were asked to the rate ball on its performance, 85% said they would take it over their current brand or add it to their mix.

A $5 million TV and print campaign for Double Ti from DDB Worldwide, Chicago, compared its mobile versatility upon impact to a dog's ability to follow directions.

Wilson captured a 7.4% share of the estimated $600 million golf ball market in 1998, according to Golf DataTech Services, an independent golf researcher.

Mr. Christensen says his challenge for marketing the Wilson Staff Titanium line was to steal a market share of a segment that is not growing.

"Golf balls to most golfers are a fairly confusing category-without packaging around them-they all look the same," he says. The key was utilizing technology they were familiar with already . . . and its benefits of enhancing power and

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