Teeing Off Tradition: The Bold Shift in Golf Apparel Brand Partnerships
By Tanner Steffy
The 2024 PGA Tour year kicked off at the Sentry Tournament of Champions at Kapalua. Familiar faces like Scottie Scheffler, Viktor Hovland, and Collin Morikawa are back in action. However, fan favorite Jon Rahm was not in the field this year as he shocked the golf world and made his transition to LIV Golf. Among the star-studded field at Kapalua were the current #6 ranked golfer in the world, Xander Schauffele, and former #1 golfer in the world and major champion Jason Day. But something was different about the golfers this time: Schauffele wasn’t wearing his typical Adidas outfits, and Day wasn’t representing his usual Nike apparel. As the tournament unfolded, it became evident that a significant shift was underway in the golf world, with top players like Schauffele and Day breaking away from their traditional sponsors and signaling a new era of golf apparel brand partnerships.
One of the most popular golfers on the PGA tour right now, Xander Schauffele, will be teeing it up this year without the classic three stripes. After debuting on the tour in 2015, Schauffele signed with Adidas and has been very successful during his time on tour. Schauffele started the year at Kapalua in pursuit of another victorious year, but he was wearing Descente this time. Descente, a Japanese apparel company specializing in skiwear, is known for its functional beauty and cutting edge technology within sportswear. The brand was founded in 1935 but launched its very first golf apparel brand line just under ten years ago.
This year, Descente announced that Schauffele had agreed to a multi-year contract for golf wear, training wear, and accessories. Schauffele isn’t the only professional golfer to switch to Descente; Descente also sponsors former Masters champion Danny Willett. Descente has also dipped their toe into women’s professional golf, inking a contract with LPGA star Danielle Kang. Danielle was recently playing with a Descente crop-top hoodie on the course, signaling a new look for the LPGA. Schauffele will work closely with Descente’s product development team and looks to contribute to the company's success.
Like Schauffele, Jason Day kicked off his new year at Kapalua, but it wasn't with the iconic swoosh on his clothes. Since 2016, Day has been striping fairways and winning tournaments with Nike. Yet, on January 2nd, 2024, Malbon Golf announced on their social media that Jason Day would be their first professional golf ambassador, a move that shocked the golf world. Regarding the transition, Day explained he was tired of seeing the same outfits on everyone and sought a more forward-thinking golf fashion brand. In a recent interview, Day stated that being a Maldon ambassador “marks the opening of another door, allowing me to bring the same sense of relaxation and refine my personal style on the golf course as I do in the comfort of my home.” Malbon isn’t your traditional golf apparel company— they aim to inspire the youth by integrating golf apparel into their lifestyle wardrobe. Rather than the stereotypical golf uniform of dress pants and a polo, Maldon seeks a more casual approach. With Day as their ambassador, the brand has big plans to revolutionize how golfers present themselves on the course.
Tiger Woods and Nike
Tiger Woods and Nike are one of the most iconic brand partnerships of all time. Ever since Woods became a brand ambassador in 1996, the partnership has spanned countless advertisements and memorable moments in Tiger’s Sunday red. In fact, Nike was one of the few partners to stick with Tiger through all of his off-the-course drama. And their move paid off: Nike was also alongside him when he made one of the greatest comebacks of all time, winning the Masters Tournament at 43 in 2019. However, when Tiger appeared at the 2023 PNC Championship to compete with his son, Charlie Woods, he wore FootJoy golf shoes. When asked about his relationship with Nike, Tiger responded bluntly: “I’m still wearing their product.” As of right now, it's all speculation, but there could be a chance the famous Tiger and Nike alliance could be coming to a close. As more and more golfers move towards new, dynamic apparel partnerships, it's possible this Nike loyalist could make a move.
The recent shifts in apparel partnerships among professional golfers signal a potential transformation in the golf industry's landscape. As top players like Xander Schauffele and Jason Day break away from established brands like Adidas and Nike, they pave the way for a more diverse market of apparel sponsors. The golf industry may see more players exploring unconventional collaborations and endorsing brands that align with their personal preferences, marking a departure from the conventional norms that have dominated the sport for decades. This shift could influence how golfers approach their brand image in the years to come.