Fortune Brands, Inc.

Author:Kevin Teague

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FootJoy, owned by Fortune Brands, Inc., sold more golf shoes during the 1990s than any other company by keeping their innovative shoes on the feet of the world's best golfers. Two events in 1996, however, caused the company, which also made socks and gloves, to restrategize its advertising. Not only did Nike, Inc., announce it would begin designing golf shoes, but it agreed to pay champion golfer Tiger Woods $8 million a year to endorse them. Fearful that Nike would dominate the burgeoning younger market of golfers, FootJoy released its quirky "Sign Boy" campaign to attract young players.

In 1998 FootJoy awarded its estimated $5 to $7 million advertising budget to ad agency Arnold Worldwide Partners. Print ads and television spots appeared in January 1999 starring comedian Matt Griesser, who played the campaign's character titled "Sign Boy," a moniker for the standard-bearer or person carrying the cumbersome scoreboard from hole to hole during golf tournaments. In the first eight commercials Sign Boy pestered golfers, sometimes mid-swing, with his overzealous blathering and obsession over FootJoy shoes. With a background in improvisational comedy, Griesser ad-libbed every commercial, which appeared on channels such as ESPN, NBC, and ABC. In one spot Sign Boy dove into a water hazard while wearing nothing but FootJoy shoes. The golfers Phil Mickelson and David Toms looked on in horror. Another spot showed Sign Boy slinking into a locker room just to sniff the FootJoy shoes of professional golfers. Another featured him nabbing Ernie Els's toothbrush. With the exception of a yearlong hiatus in 2002, the "Sign Boy" campaign expanded to include Internet ads as well as on-site promotions where Griesser would actually heckle players during golf tournaments.

The campaign collected a Silver EFFIE Award in 2001 and helped increase FootJoy sales 10 percent in the market of people under age 30. Andy Jones, marketing vice president at FootJoy, told the Palm Beach Post, "Ultimately the judge of any advertising campaign is market-share growth. During the campaign we've experienced significant market-share growth in both golf shoes and golf gloves."


Fortune Brands, the corporation that owned alcohol brands such as Jim Beam and Knob Creek, purchased FootJoy in 1986. Running non-humorous advertising that usually featured golfers, FootJoy dominated the golf-shoe industry during the 1990s. It was only after Nike announced its upcoming golf shoe that FootJoy rethought its entire marketing strategy. Not only had Nike dominated the outside-athletic-shoe industry, but the titan was showing a growing interest in golf, first with

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its introduction of Nike golf apparel. Then it offered world-champion golfer Tiger Woods an $8 million endorsement in 1996. Woods, who was playing Masters Tournaments by the age of 19, appealed to the under-30-year-old age group. Soon afterward FootJoy senior product manager Tim Murphy told Adweek (eastern edition) that FootJoy had experienced an erosion in its market share among younger customers since Nike engaged Woods.

In 1998 FootJoy asked Arnold Worldwide to rebrand the company's shoes for a younger audience. Arnold Worldwide's senior vice president, Jamie Graham, worked on the project with Ron Harper, the agency's senior art director. Graham explained to Shoot, "We were in the right place at the right time, because Nike was coming along, doing some very cool stuff with Tiger Woods. FootJoy was worried...

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