Mercifully, the polar vortices have receded, and for most of the country the weather is getting better by the day. Soon, if not already, everyone will want to hit the links. When that moment comes, golfers will be concerned not only with how well they’re driving and putting, but also with how stylish they look when doing so.
Golf apparel matters, and if your clients want their golf promotions to stand out, they’ll need the best and latest options. To find out what those are, we reached out to Amber Becerril, vice president of national marketing and customer apparel for Pro-Celebrity, Arcadia, Calif.; and Andrea Routzahn, senior vice president, portfolio and supplier management, for alphabroder, Trevose, Pa.
While many people argue that baseball is boring (and shame on those misguided souls), golf, at least according to a January 2018 study by the British outlet YouGov, is the most taxing sport to watch, with 70 percent of U.K. respondents dubbing the game “very/quite boring.” We would like to think that they hold such disdain for golf because they’d rather be playing it, such is our passion for the pastime. One could argue that watching players walk from hole to hole is boring, sure, but when the athletes are doing so, onlookers have ample opportunities to inspect more than just discussions between them and their caddies. Simply put, today’s golfers are showing themselves to be more than just excellent at tallying low scores. They are also receiving high marks for their style choices, and that attention to presentation has become a common theme for weekend warriors and would-be successors to the megastars, too.
“It may be an expectation for the sport at this point,” Becerril said of why consumers have chosen to devote so much attention to their golf apparel. “You have a crowd watching you take a swing. Do you [want to] blend in or stand out?”
While end-users are looking to look great, she added, apparel companies are playing just as hard to win their shot at outfitting the masses, leading to numerous plusses for the promotional apparel world at large. For one thing, it’s led to more retail brands entering the space, a benefit for distributors whose clients want name recognition.
“Golf brands were some of the first retail brands to recognize the value of making their brands available to the imprintable sportswear and promotional products industry,” Routzahn said. “As our industry continues to grow and become more sophisticated, we see more and more retail brands interested in leveraging the strength of their brand name with top-notch companies, large and small, that want to co-brand their logo with a premium retail brand on apparel, headwear and hard-good accessories. Elite brands see our channel now as a way to engage with their customers in their work life as well as their personal lives. It’s a win for everyone.”
In courting that victory, Pro-Celebrity and alphabroder have teamed with their peers to contemplate not just the look of golf garments, but also the performance features. One could say that they’ve combined the best of both worlds, and have avoided being like some athletes who are more about flashy appearances than they are about results on their field of play. In other words, they are all about being noticed by helping others to be noticed, too.
“All our product is crafted with heart and soul and is meant to be worn from leisure to play,” Becerril said. “We have mastered the moisture-wicking property in such a way that we can honestly say that ours won’t wash away. [Our Hi-Cool technology] is a treatment embedded in the yards of the thread during production, and it’ll last the entire lifetime of the garment. Try it, wear it, wash it. We’re ready for it.”
What do eager promotional products distributors need to do to achieve success similar to that of Pro-Celebrity and alphabroder, which likewise pride themselves on giving ample attention to customers’ needs, wants and pain points? According to our sources, they simply need to reread the end of that question and be ready to tee off when inspiration strikes.
“Golf apparel trends follow the same technology trends that we see across all performance apparel brands,” Routzahn said. “After many years of polyester dominating, we are definitely seeing a trend back toward cotton or cotton-feel fabrics that still have all the performance functionality of polyester. I’m not surprised. Fashion, like everything in life, is cyclical. What’s old is new again, but never exactly the same as it was before. Consumers want that comfort of cotton, but are never going back to old cotton that had no functionality.”
Is Routzahn’s assessment that “what’s old is new again” a dire stance, or one teeming with brilliance for those who might be struggling with the thought of having to reinvent the wheel to stand out in golf apparel? Golf courses, after all, are not like fashion runways where daring designs reap rewards. Sure, Pro-Celebrity added graphite to its color options and recently launched a stripes-centric collection, and alphabroder has partnered with screen printers, embroiderers, promo distributors, athletic dealers and more to offer all sorts of decoration options. But while a great visual will win favor, it cannot be the lone consideration.
“Golf apparel is still a large market, considering all the giveaways and freebies of sponsorships,” Becerril said. “I’ve seen a rising trend of casual and comfort play versus the traditional, but those who remain true to the game will always find what they need from us and others who are willing to adapt to the consumer’s needs.”
To gain new golf apparel clients and give existing ones exactly what they need, distributors need to be unafraid to take risks. Routzahn said that might mean new designs, color blocking and color considerations. As the year unfolds, consumers will be taking to the 17,067 golf courses across the country, granting apparel what we hope will be many moments in the sun.
“Patience and perseverance,” Becerril noted as necessities for those who are hoping to grow their reputation as golf apparel presences, and for businesses considering having an identity as a golf apparel provider. “Take your team out on the course, know the game so you can master the techniques to create apparel you would be proud to sell,” she said. “Visit the shops, introduce the new product line and sponsor a local tournament to build a name for yourself. [Most importantly,] follow through on all you’ve committed to.”
“All retails brands, golf included, will need to address changing demographics and purchasing-decision drivers,” Routzahn said. “Brands that stand for something will become more and more important. Great apparel and accessories at great price points are no longer differentiators but costs of entry. Brand identity, engagement with core customers and a great value proposition will increasingly become the focus and driver for success.”